matti makkonen

by: Nick Gambino

Try and remember the last time you went 24 hours without texting. Go on, try and remember. Can’t do it, can you? Text messages are as much a part of our lives as tying our shoes or eating food. That may seem extreme but think of how many times you’ve texted in the last 24 hours and then think of how many times you tied your shoes or ate food. We owe this extreme communication convenience to a man named Matti Makkonen who died on June 26th at the age of 63.Matti Makkonen

Considered the father of SMS (short messaging service), Makkonen, a Finnish engineer suggested the concept of text messaging or as it was put at the time, “sending messages through mobile networks,” over a slice of pizza during a conference in 1984. 1984?! Talk about ahead of his time.

While his idea was rejected at the time it set in motion a nugget of an idea that would eventually be realized in 1992. Although it wouldn’t become a widely available tech until 1994 when Nokia released their first texting phone.

Though, as anyone who was alive and functioning in 1994 knows, text messaging may have been widely available but almost no one was using it. Part of this was due to the fact that very few devices or networks supported it.

Matti Makkonen

By 1999 inter-network messaging removed the restriction and its popularity grew to the point where about 35 texts a month were being sent per person in the U.S in 2000.

This only continued to grow to the point where today 31% of the U.S. population prefers text messaging over phone calls. Who saw that coming?! In 2007 we experienced the first year where more text messages were sent than phone calls made. And today we send north of 2 trillion texts a year.

Makkonen always played down his involvement in the creation of SMS, usually chalking it up to a team effort. Never having patented the idea he never saw the financial windfall that an early patent would have all but guaranteed. Still though, earning the title of “the father of SMS” ain’t nothing to shake a stick at.

Makkonen went on to create a successful career in the telecom realm working for such companies as Tele Finland and Nokia Networks.

Passing away at the mere age of 63 many would consider this too young but with all he accomplished and the legacy he left behind he easily lived numerous lifetimes in the span of one.


Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch.  He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.


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