Thursday, May 16, 2024

Emoji History: The Missing Years

Matt Sephton (tweet):

During my research into vintage Japanese drawing software, I came across some devices that had built in sketch or handwritten memo functions. I bought a couple of them to see if they did anything cool or interesting. These sorts of devices are pre-internet, so there’s not much about them online, and they can’t be emulated, so the only way to find out what they do is to get first hand experience by reading the manual or, better, using one yourself. It’s difficult to find these devices in working condition, as most of them have screen polarisers that have gone bad over time, but if you’re lucky you can find one.


At this point, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing because I was under the impression that the first emoji were created by an anonymous designer at SoftBank in 1997, and the most famous emoji were created by Shigetaka Kurita at NTT DoCoMo in 1999. But the Sharp PI-4000 in my hands was released in 1994, and it was chock full of recognisable emoji. Then down the rabbit hole I fell. 🕳️🐇

Keith Broni (Hacker News):

In 2019 Emojipedia detailed a historic revelation: Docomo’s i-mode emojis from 20 years prior were not the first to exist. Now, in 2024, further digital excavations have led to the recreation of emoji designs that predate both Softbank’s 1997 emoji set and the ❤-enabled Pocket Bell pagers of 1995.

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It's just like with anything else: nothing is ever just invented out of thin air, it always evolves from something that came before it. I had a little pager device in the 90s that had smileys and other little images in it, and in the 80s, we all wore buttons with the yellow smiley face.

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