Matti Makkonen, the man behind SMS texting, dies at the age of 63

matti makkonen sms texting inventor dies 01
Kuva/Sari Gustafsson
Matti Makkonen, a Finnish tech pioneer and the man responsible for conceiving the idea of SMS texting (also known as short messaging service), has died at the age of 63 after an illness, the BBC reports.

While many considered him the father of SMS, he referred to himself as the “reluctant father” of SMS because he would not accept credit for developing the technology. He would only say that he helped in “conceiving and fleshing out SMS.”

Makkonen pitched the idea of SMS messaging to two colleagues in a pizzeria while at a telecommunications conference in 1984, but it wasn’t until December 3, 1992 that the first text message was sent from a PC to a mobile device via the Vodafone network.

“I did not consider SMS [as a] personal achievement, but [as a] result of joint [efforts] to collect ideas and write the specifications of the services based on them,” Makkonen told the BBC back in 2012.

Nokia, his former employer, also played a key role in popularizing the service. The launch of the 2010 mobile phone in 1994 made it easy for people to send messages, which led to a wider acceptance. SMS continued to grow in popularity, but has since slowed as other non-cellular messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger continue to gain popularity.

In 2000, Makkonen joined Nokia Networks Professional Services as the units director, and was the CEO of Finnet Oy from 2003 through 2005.

Jarmo Matilainen, managing director of the Finnet Association, described him as a “grand old man of the mobile industry.” Matilainen continued, “It’s very sad. He was just going to retire and he should have had many years ahead.”

Unfortunately, Makkonen wasn’t able to patent the invention of SMS messaging, since it was only a conceived idea back in 1984. He did win the Economist Innovation Award in the computing and telecommunications category in 2008 for his work on SMS, though.


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