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The history of emojis | How did it start and how became essential in our lives? “From =) to 😀”

The history of emojis | How did it start and how became essential in our lives? “From =) to 😀”

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In 2017, on International Emoji Day, Facebook announced that there are nearly 5 billion emojis sent daily on Messenger. And if these numbers indicate anything, they indicate that these cute yellow faces have become an essential part of our daily communication on the Internet and to express our different feelings.

But wait, at what point in time did these emojis become necessary to us and spread in the massive proportions we see today? How were its beginnings? We will talk about that in this article, as we will take you on a historical journey to expressive faces!


The era before technology and computers

After writing and typewriters were invented, we humans wanted to express our feelings and feelings through other means beyond words and letters. For example, in the 1850s the number 73 in Morse code meant “best regards” in addition to the number 88, which meant “with my love and embrace” – which we express with the symbols “XO” today.

We see the first appearance of emoji in 1648 in a printed poem by the English poet “Robert Herrick”, who used the symbol “:)”, which represents a smiling face.

Poem by the poet “Robert Herrick” showing his use of the emoji “:)”, 1648

We can also see the use of the emoji symbol “;)” in a letter written in a copy of the “New York Times” copies of one of the speeches of US President “Abraham Lincoln” in 1862, but some linguists suggested this as a typo and nothing more.

A printed copy of one of US President Lincoln’s speeches in 1862

However, the first effort to truly draw and realize emojis was in 1881, at the hands of the comic magazine “Puck”. In one of its issues, the magazine presented expressive drawings that express states of joy, surprise, and others by merging and superimposing various punctuation marks and symbols.

Some of the emojis that was published in the comic Puck in 1881

The art of drawing called “Typewri-toons” appeared in the period between the sixties and eighties of the last century, as its idea is based on drawing using different characters (alphabets, punctuation marks, symbols) only.

Some of the drawings in “Typewri-toons” art

The era of computers and technology, which contributed to the emergence and spread of emoji icons

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With the advent of personal computers and their spread in the seventies of the last century (1970-1980) and their ease of access in every home, in conjunction with the spread of the Internet (the Web) in most parts of the world and e-mail service, various people around the world have a new and effective means of communication.

However, e-mail in its early days was limited to lines of text only, which caused many messages to be easily misunderstood or lose their meaning without any indication of the type of emotions to be expressed in these text lines.

This frustrated many, including a university professor and computer scientist Scott Falman, who used to email jokes and sarcastic comments to his colleagues and students, but most of them were taken seriously.

As a result, Professor Fahlmann in 1982 sent an e-mail to his colleagues suggesting that ironic expressions be inferred using the symbol “:-)” and suggested the use of “:-(” for serious expressions.

The e-mail that Valmann sent in 1982

Once he started using these emojis in abundance, some students and professor colleagues (and later, all internet users) added more emojis that reflect different and various expressions such as the symbol that winked its eye “;-)” and the symbol that expresses surprise:- 0” and many more.

These symbols have been called emoticons and are derived from the combination of the two words: Emotion and Icon.

At the same time, other emojis appeared in Japan called Kaomoji, which means the face of the character in the Japanese language. These symbols were distinguished from the Emoticon in that they were written and read horizontally with the direction of writing. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

An image showing the most prominent emoji “Kaomojis”.

A large number of characters in the Japanese language (katakana, hiragana, kanji) led to the emergence of a great variety of emojis, and soon more Korean, Greek, and other symbols and characters were used around the world to design various symbols.


First attempts at designing and using emojis

With the increase in forms and combinations of emojis, the need for a single symbol appeared to save the user the trouble of entering several characters to form one emoji, which was a monotonous process and time-consuming in the long run.

One of the first attempts was made by Microsoft, which developed a series of typefaces in 1990 under the name “Wingdings”, and this font contained a set of facial expressions and other different symbols. However, this meant that the icons would only appear on the device that had this font installed.

Some of the symbols in the “wingdings” font

In fact, we can say that the attempt that gained popularity and caused the spread and development of emojis as we know them now is the first set of emojis drawn by the Japanese artist “Shigetaka Kurita”.

Coretta drew a set of 176 different emojis for the Japanese mobile media company, i-mode, in 1999 as a promotional tool for the company, which was limited to devices on its network only.

Due to the limitations imposed at the time on hardware and display specifications, Coretta drew each symbol at 12 x 12 pixels – compared to today’s 128 x 128-pixel emoji – plus each symbol contained only one color.

A set of emojis was drawn by Coretta, 1999.

They were called emojis, or as we call them “emojis”, which literally means in the Japanese language (the image of the character).


This is where the race for emojis begins

After the company’s attempt to “i-mode” and the success of its advertising movement, most platforms and means of communication and messaging rushed to include their own version of emoticons in a new and distinctive way that attracts users to it.

Perhaps the most famous of these attempts was at the hands of Microsoft in its iconic messaging application MSN, which launched a group of 30 emoticons and emoji faces on its platform in 2003, and this group continues to have a great influence on many of the emoji faces we use today.

Icon Pack in MSN Messaging

Google followed it up in 2007 when it included a package of its own emojis for use on the Gmail platform, and then Apple in 2008 with the release of the iOS 2.2 update, to be officially the beginning of the adoption of emojis in smartphones.

The use of these emojis was limited to the Japanese and Asian markets, but if you want to use them, you have to download a separate app to use them – but Apple included these emojis with the keyboard in the iOS 5 update.


Many emojis, and emoticons..without any compatibility between any of them!

The large number of faces and emoji symbols on different sites, platforms, and messaging programs has led to compatibility problems between them and the devices and sites recognizing these symbols, which often causes strange signs to appear on the other end – such as the “�” symbol.

To eliminate this annoying problem, two Apple engineers – Yasio Kida and Peter Edberg – submitted a request to the global Unicode body – responsible for the global Unicode standard for character standardization – in March 2009 to include faces and emojis for this. The standard for standardization across all platforms.

This request was later approved with the release of Unicode 6 in 2010 October, which included an initial 625 faces and emojis – to date, there are 3,633 emojis in all, and the number is increasing with each release.

You can now copy and paste the emojis in one app into another and the results will look the same and the screen won’t be filled with those weird question marks!

In recent years, we have also witnessed efforts by various companies (Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter) to remarkably standardize the appearance of emojis.

A comparison of the smiley emoji, between different platforms and the change of design over the years

And we must not forget the creation of “Animoji” – a combination of the words “Animation” and “Personal Moji” – by Apple at its conference in 2017, coinciding with its announcement of iOS 11, which allowed users to animate various emoji faces according to the movement of their faces, which They were then copied from companies like Xiaomi, while Samsung created “AR emojis” that allows you to create your own character and buy costumes for them (with real money).

A review of the “Animoji” feature that Apple launched in 2017

Expressive faces as an important social phenomenon.. Defining problems and events

The most prominent criticism of expressive faces, in general, is their lack of representation and expression of certain groups of society or countries of the world. For example, many citizens of Western countries (especially the United States of America) complained about the large number of expressive faces that represent the culture of Asian countries and civilizations compared to their countries.

In addition to the presence of emoji symbols representing different professions (doctor, teacher, etc..), but all of them were male and lacked symbols representing females in these professions, in addition to different skin colors, as the emoji faces contained only one color.

But soon, five skin tones were added to the emoji in 2015, followed by the emoji of a girl wearing a hijab in 2016 in addition to various symbols representing people with disabilities and other symbols that included more groups in society.

In some countries, emojis such as a pistol have also been deemed a death threat by authorities when they are sometimes sent. This forced Apple to change it to a water pistol, and other companies soon followed suit.

An image showing the change in the design of the pistol from a real pistol to a water-based pistol on various platforms

However, if we put all of these issues aside, we will notice that emoji have radically changed the way we communicate with each other and are a huge social phenomenon.

For example, in 2015 the Oxford Dictionary chose the expressive face “😂” to be the word of the year, so you can imagine the stage we have reached in the development of this language to become a symbol of it that represents the word of the year!

The Dictionary has also included many symbols and emoticons and the meaning of each one, and it is considered the first reference dictionary to do so.

And let’s not forget “The Emoji Movie”, which was released in 2017, produced by Sony, and its characters were expressive faces, as this movie was a huge success and earned an estimated $200 million in profits.

The Emoji Movie

In conclusion, there is no doubt that expressive faces are a social phenomenon that is increasing in prevalence and influence around the world, and is almost a language in itself! It does not seem that its development will stop soon with the continuation of the release of various technologies related to it.

However, which emoji or symbol do you think is missing from the group and should be added? Share your opinion with us in the comments!

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