We were instant messaging long before we started obsessing over why there was no reply on WhatsApp, when the two blue ticks were clearly indicating a received and read message. But did you know it predates the World Wide Web? Yep, and by quite a bit actually…
Roll the clock back exactly 171 years, and mankind had just cracked long distance instant communication in the form of the telegram and the Morse system. It was a quite complicated process of dots and dashes, but communicating over a great distance had finally been achieved.
Not to take anything away from the then ground-breaking technology, but let’s jump forward a bit, to the swinging 60s...
The age of the computer
The Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) was created at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1961. It allowed around 30 people to log into the same system and simultaneously communicate with each other. More importantly it allowed them to do it quickly.
This system was more closely related to modern emails, and by 1965 it had hundreds of registered users.
Over the next two decades peer-to-peer networks were created, allowing universities to talk with each other in an effort to quickly exchange information and research.
By 1982, Commodore International had created the Commodore 64 PC – a computer that could harness a primitive form of internet service, which would eventually become known as America Online (AOL). Users could then choose to pay a monthly subscription to exchange messages through a modem.
Instant messaging (IM)
By the 90s, computing and the internet had become a more sophisticated thing (of course, it was still not on par with what we know today).
In 1997 AOL launched AIM, which quickly attracted a youthful generation to the internet. AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) followed in the footsteps of other less celebrated text-based messengers, like ICQ (which stands for ‘I Seek You’), and quickly became a hit.
Around the same time Pidgin and Yahoo! Messenger were both moving forward in the IM world, bringing together millions of users. But it wasn’t until 1999, when MSN launched its Messenger Service, that things really took off.
Internet speeds were becoming more reliable and cheaper, making it possible for instant messenger services to do more than just exchange text. After a few years of development, file sharing was introduced, and gaming options kept users online for longer.
The experience became very popular and went hand in hand with the rise of social media channels like Friendster, Bebo, MySpace and Facebook, which at the time didn’t have IM compatibility.
Social media channels are now the most visited websites on the internet. We use the likes of Facebook and Twitter constantly on our computers, our smartphones, our tablets, and even on our watches. We literally can’t stop talking to each other.
There are now endless ways to stay in touch, most of which live inside our smartphones, so we’re never disconnected from anyone. Video calling apps like Microsoft’s Skype, Google Hangouts and Apple’s FaceTime all allow us to see and talk to friends and family in real time. We can only dream of what the future will hold.
Virtual reality calls? Live holograms? Teleportation? Only time will tell…