Where 160-character texts (& tweets) come from

A year ago, US cellphone users (not just teenaged ones, who sent a lot more) sent an average of 357 texts per month versus an average of 204 voice calls, the Los Angeles Times reports, but how did they arrive at 160 characters for the max length of text messages? Well, it was an interesting thought, research, and experimentation process that started with a guy in Bonn, Germany, named Friedhelm Hillebrand back in 1985, when “the guys who invented Twitter were probably still playing with Matchbox cars.” Hillebrand was “chairman of the nonvoice services committee within the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), a group that sets standards for the majority of the global mobile market.” That group decreed that “all cellular carriers and mobile phones … must support the short messaging service (SMS),” the Times reports. Hillebrand, it adds, was also the man who discovered the pipe or channel for all those texts, “a secondary radio channel that already existed on mobile networks.”


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