Monday, May 4, 2009

Tech Check: Why Text Messages are 160 Characters Long

photo and copyright by Giusi-gurL on Flickr

Have you ever wondered why your text message can only be 160 characters in length? It's not your phone or your service provider but rather a universal standard! The man behind the plan was the German Friedhelm Hillebrand, chairman of GSM (Global Systems for Mobile Communications). Back around 1985 communications researchers were trying to standardize a way for cellphones to transmit text messages and these texts needed to be short for two reasons. One, the bandwidth was very limited at the time and two, the wireless networks back then were mostly only used by car phones.

Hillebrand did some at home research where he typed up all the simple messages he can come up with, and you guessed it they were all under 160 characters in length. So how did he convince everyone that 160 was the magic number without any real market research? Most post cards back then were less than 150 characters in length, and most of the messages sent via business messaging system Telex also clocked in around 150. Even emails were rather short, so as far as they knew the whole world was already used to communicating with less than 160 characters.

So that's the short story of the why text messages are only 160 characters in length, and Twitter's 140 character limit is definitely based off of the text standard. For the detailed story check the link below!

+ Why text messages are limited to 160 characters [LA Times]

- Sonic

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