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The History Behind the 160 Character SMS Limit

hillebrand So we finally have somebody to blame for the 160 character limit on SMS. The LA Times did a bit of investigative reporting into the history of the 160 characters and spoke to the persona responsible; Friedhelm Hillebrand. The poor German chap didn’t get rich for developing the SMS standard but he explains how it came about.

In 1985 he sat at his typewriter and tried to find the optimal length for a text message. He wrote out a few sentences and found that the characters were always under 160. He then got his magic number and forced the new standard on all GSM carriers as chairman of the nonvoice services committee of the Global System for Mobile Communications Group in 1986… Sounds like ancient history but it really took off. Especially since the standard was built around mobile car phones back in day.

Nowadays we are still stuck with the “Magic” 160 character limit and have created a whole new way to combine words to fit inside that limit.

You can read more about the history at the LA Times via Gizmodo

Image Credit: Friedhelm Hillebrand

5 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Well that was the past but now we are in the future! Time to make some changes.But I really don’t think carries are going to change this sometime soon, as this is a way to make more money on limlited texting.For the new app that’s out, I tip my hat to you on making it easy to send more then the limit aloud. Koodoo’§!!!!!

  2. Imagine if he got just 1 cent or even .1 cent from every SMS ever sent…

  3. It really suck to see with high demand that carriers are still sticking to this concept. Changes is a result of demand.

  4. Makes me wonder why wasn’t he a chatter box….hahaha

  5. If it were that easy to change they would have years ago instead of create EMS. As it is it is part of the system now and they have to deal with it or find a way to change the system which is probably easier said than done.

    Just use MMS and be done with it.

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