What Came Before Texting?


“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” 
Frank Zappa


Every generation claims bragging rights on innovative progress.  Credit for past accomplishments is duly noted, but since advancement is seen as increasing over time, the assumption gives the edge to the current age group. Nowhere is this more evident than in our sophisticated communication technology, which is readily observed in the proliferation of texting.

Texting is merely sending a message to someone else using “Short Message Service” (SMS), a term for abbreviations and slang used in texts. Abbreviations overcame the difficulty of multiple key presses, the character limitations imposed by carriers, and the high cost of service. It’s quick, efficient and global. While texting appears to be a rather recent development, we were not the only generation to use abbreviated language.

Ancient Greece used a shorthand system that was based principally on vowels, using various modifications to indicate consonants.  Cicero of Ancient Rome was fortunate in his choice of scribe.  Marcus Tullius Tiro, developed a shorthand named “Tironian notes” to record Cicero’s speeches.  On the other side of the globe, Imperial China developed an abbreviated, cursive form of Chinese characters for transcribing  court proceedings.

Fast forward a few centuries, everyone became interested in fashioning short-hand to facilitate knowledge transfer.   More recently, Pitman shorthand was the standard for clerical excellence.

Humanity thrives on progress and challenge, both of which require the conduit of language. Whether long or short, communication finds a way.

“We should strive to welcome change and challenges, because they are what help us grow. With out them we grow weak like the Eloi in comfort and security. We need to constantly be challenging ourselves in order to strengthen our character and increase our intelligence. ”
H.G. Wells, The Time Machine