I can’t say that I actually created it myself, but I’d never seen it before I typed it.


That’s been my emoticon for a monkey – or more specifically in my case, a StickMonkey.

Ever wonder about the history of emoticons? Most of us use them daily.

Emoticon is a portmanteau of the words emotion and icon – generally defined as a pictorial representation of a facial expression using punctuation marks and letters.

The first emoticon is attributed to Scott E. Fahlman, a scientist and professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He was part of a group of scientists and students who were members of an online newsgroup at the university.

Cognizant of the fact that sometimes the emotional meaning of a posting might be lost, he was looking for a way to let the group understand the difference between a sarcastic joke and a nasty barb when typed.

As he explains it, in this newsgroup if someone misinterpreted the sentiment of a posting meant to be sarcastic or a joke, they would “post a lengthy diatribe in response.” Said Fahlman, “That would stir up more people with more responses, and soon the original thread of the discussion was buried. In at least one case, a humorous remark was interpreted by someone as a serious safety warning.”

So the helpful professor came up with a sideways smiley and posted it to the newsgroup in September of 1982. Here is a transcript of the original post.

19-Sep-1982 11:44 Scott E Fahlman : – )

From: Scott E Fahlman

I propose the following character sequence for joke markers:

: – )

Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use

: – (

And emoticon history was created.

Was Fahlman really the very first person to use this emoticon? That became a great debate. He never preserved a copy of his original newsgroup thread posting – which would have served as proof.

Indeed, the message was lost for years. Then, in 2001, Mike Jones of Microsoft mounted a search of the thread archives – stored on backup tapes – to retrieve the post and back up Fahlman’s claim.

A group of participants the university located the tape backups and found the original thread. The date of its discovery was September 10, 2002: nine days before the 20th anniversary of the post.

It may be as close as anyone can get to proving that Scott Fahlman is the father of modern emoticons. And how does he feel about it?

Fahlman – who still remains at the university and works largely on Artificial Intelligence projects – would rather play it down. “I am trying to create something that will have a greater impact than that stupid thing,” he says.

I will add : – ) here, although I do not know if Fahlman meant that statement to be sarcastic.

So sayeth the StickMonkey. {:(|)

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