:-) Birf!!


I'm Biv Dick Black, the Over Poster.
Apr 22, 2002

29 years ago, a smiley was born :)

Gene J. Puskar / AP
Carnegie Mellon professor Scott E. Fahlman is shown in his home office next to a his invention — the smiley face emoticon.

By Rosa Golijan
At 11:44 a.m. on September 19, 1982, a man named Scott Fahlman posted a message to an electronic computer-science department bulletin board at Carnegie Mellon University. And with that simple action he did something wonderful: He became the individual who would later be credited as the inventor of :), an ASCII-based emoticon.
Thanks to the efforts of Microsoft Director of Identity Partnerships Mike B. Jones — who worked at Carnegie Mellon University when the original post was made — and a small team of dedicated individuals, we know that the following is the message Fahlman sent:

If you're curious about the exact context of the message, then you can actually read through the full "joke" message thread in which it was posted or Fahlman's "Smiley Lore :)" post which explains the thoughts that led to the use of the emoticon.
The gist of the lengthy tale was summed up rather neatly by Wired's Tony Long a couple of years ago though:
The internet emoticon truly traces its lineage directly to Fahlman, who says he came up with the idea after reading “lengthy diatribes” from people on the message board who failed to get the joke or the sarcasm in a particular post — which is probably what “given current trends” refers to in his own, now-famous missive.
To remedy this, Fahlman suggested using :) and :-( to distinguish between posts that should be taken humorously and those of a more serious nature.
Oh yes! Fahlman technically gave birth to twins — one happy and one not — that day and now they're all grown up and all over the Internet!
It's worth noting that while Fahlman is acknowledged as the inventor of the :) emoticon, he isn't exactly the first person to use typographical symbols to convey emotions:
In 1881, the American satirical magazine Puck published what we would now call emoticons, using hand-set type. No less a wordsmith than Ambrose Bierce suggested using what he called a “s****** point” — \__/ — to convey jocularity or irony. Baltimore’s Sunday Sun suggested a tongue-in-cheek sideways character in 1967.
None of those characters caught on quite the same way the good ol' sideways smiley face did though, and so it is Fahlman's brainchild whom we celebrate today.