For those who were born in the 90s and further, it may seem that there was no another life without emojis, emoticons, and smiles. However, who is the first one to use them? To tell the long story short, they appeared exactly at the time when people needed them.
It was the time when man began sending SMS on primitive mobile phones, that looked touching and ridiculous at the same time. They make you distinctly recall your first phone that somehow became a memory in your head among classmates in school.
Back then, there were any messaging apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp, Viber, or Voxer. Hence, there was no emojis as they are today. Everything began with simple typographic signs that meant simple emotions as a gladness, sadness, or a wink.
So, on the threshold of The Emoji Movie, whose release is planned at the beginning of August, we decided to look into all these smiles and emojis, discussing when and how they conquered our world.
Genesis of a Smile
You will certainly agree with me that there is no need to explain what the smile is. This round yellow face with a wide black grin and gaping black eyes is known to everybody in the world, even for those who do not have TV or the Internet as far as man can see it on the street, in magazines and newspapers, and even on the shoulder of some girl.
It is interesting to mention that “smile” was by the first time used yet in the XVII century in Slovakia, where one lawyer used it to express his satisfaction with the read documents.
Later, in 1919, Ervin Schulhoff, Czech compositor used four types of smiles in the notes of his eccentric play "In Futurum." Then, the smile slipped into a cinema where Ernst Ingmar Bergman, a Swedish director, used a sad version of the smile in his drama “Port of Call.” Later, a happy face appeared on the posters to the film “Lili.”
In the 1970s, the image of a happy face (along with its "Good Day" cliche) acquired another meaning, a symbol of the Nixon era in America and a shift from the optimism of the "summer of love" to a new, more cynical decade.
Use in Informatics
Guess who was the first one to use a graphical form of a smile in informatics. No, it was not a programmer, rather the opposite. It was Vladimir Nabokov who said in 1969 in an interview with The New York Times:
The Story of an Emoticon
What is emoticon? Emoticon or emotion icon is a pictogram, the imagination that has basic features characterizing some phenomena or emotion, that is designed with the help of typographic signs. Emoticons can be attributed to the paralinguistic means of written communication, or to such means that are not speech units but are accompanied by the latter for the purpose of clarifying or specifying the meaning of the main message.
So why people needed emoticons and hence created them? The answer is simple. As it always was and will be, a man tries to communicate its message as clearly as it’s possible. With the emergence of SMS, communication changed dramatically in the comparison to conventional letters sent by post. Writing SMS, a human usually conveys something important and in the shortest form (as you remember, you cannot write a poem in a usual SMS). Well, in that regard, those fact that it was only exclamatory and question marks made people rather sad.
The semantic potential of these signs is reduced to clarifying the intonational coloring of the message. These signs are unable to convey human emotions in all their diversity. Smileys are more perfect graphic means of displaying the emotional mood of the interlocutor.
Due to these reasons, in 1982, Scott E. Fahlman suggested using emoticons as they are today in the chat.
Japan Culture of Emoji
Emojis are the highest step of evolution when we are talking about smiles and emoticons, they are ideograms used during electronic communication. However, in the comparison to emoticons and smiles, they can be used as a full-fledged language. They include graphical icons denominating almost all spheres of human life beginning from food and clothes and ending with holidays, animals, and goods of a household. Thus, one can almost exclude words from his/her message having interchanged them with icons symbolizing the content to be transmitted.
The first emoji was created in 1998 or 1999 in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita. He drew his inspiration in the Japan street, weather signs, and Japanese manga. However, it was Nicolas Laufrani who divided emojis to subcategories as Classic, Emotions, Flags, Holidays, Entertainment, Sport, Weather, Animals, Food, Nationalities, Professions, Planets, Zodiac, and Infants.
For the first time these images were registered in 1997 in the US Copyright Office, subsequently, these icons were placed as .gif files on the Internet in 1998 and became the first ever graphic emoticons used in technologies.
Today all possible platforms (iOS, Android, Windows, Gmail) support emojis, although every system has its slight differences. Emoji displaying occurs in different ways on different devices, which often causes misunderstandings between users.
Smile, Smile, Smile
So, having discussed all the moments regarding emojis, smiles, and emoticons, the only question remains: Do we really need them all?
Having emerged as helpers during electronic communication, today they are quite able to replace a standard language structure. From the linguistic point of view, it can be hardly regarded as a good sign, rather symptoms of degradation.
Nevertheless, they can be a transition step as well. Also, we should not forget that emoji let us communicate with a native speaker of any nationality without knowing his/her language. For sure, emoji is not new Esperanto, but it tends to become one because it’s more popular and easy.