: Photo: Gene J. Puskar/APWith three simple keystrokes, Scott Fahlman brought a smile to the internet.
In a 1982 message board post, Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie-Mellon University, proposed using typographical smiley faces to mark jokes and clear up confusion about writers' intentions. With his simple proposal, the emoticon was born
Fahlman's smiling shorthand (and its frown-face equivalent) started a wave of internet expression that's spilled over into the real world. The emoticon has been upgraded and animated, loved and hated. Emoticons have graced gadgets, T-shirts and more.
Witness the emoticon's lasting impact, and smile if you can.
Father of the emoticon Scott Fahlman shows off his happy handiwork. His proposal to use smiley and frowney faces is credited with launching the emoticon in the internet age. Now, Carnegie-Mellon hands out an annual Smiley Award
for "innovation in technology assisted person-to-person communication."
slip onto classic iPod earbuds, giving Apple's bland white gear a colorful geek upgrade. The company also makes "strangely expressive" emoticon stickers, pins and more.
: Wear a freaky-looking Mask of Emotion
and you'll really light up a room. The bubble-shape mask, developed by designers at Hongik University in Korea, uses LEDs to put emoticon expressions on its wearer's "face."
An unknown visionary (or maybe a time traveler) used typographical symbols to mimic human expressions in an 1881 edition of Puck magazine
: Did the person or persons who installed the locks and handle on this door realize the statement they were making? London graphic designer Peter Gibbons spotted the happy hardware
on a door in Copenhagen.
: Old-school methods for inter-vehicular communication -- flipping the bird at the tailgating ******* behind you or mumbling "sorry" to yourself after cutting somebody off -- aren't exactly effective.
Cruise into the 21st century with the Driving LED Emoticon
, which lets you express your true feelings in a straightforward fashion. Just mount the LED message sign in your rear window, then use the remote control to transmit one of five messages (smiling face, winking face, "Thanks," "Back Off" and "Sorry") to the driver on your bumper.
: Feeling a little remote from your loved one? Drop a clue about your current mood with the Web Are You?
networked emoticon device from Mauricio Melo Design. Connect the thing to the internet, then ping it via a web page or cellphone. One of the four emoticons will light up to give your significant other a visual representation of your state of mind.
: Wear your emotion on your lapel (or anywhere else) with one of these colorful emoticon pins
. The set includes "Roll Eyes (Sarcastic)," "Mad," "Smilie," "Cool," "Frown," "Wink," "Big Grin" and "Eek."
: Emoticons aren't just for the internet. With the Emoticon Transforming Stamp
, you can ink a piece of paper with a standard smiley in nothing flat. The $6 silicone stamp is flexible -- squish it for variations on the theme.
: Screw e-mail -- use an actual mailbox to send a message with these emoticon letterpress cards
from Lizard Press.
: Endless mutations on the smiley face, as popularized by AOL Instant Messenger and other services that use animated emoticons, show up all over the place. Smiley World, which registered the '60s-era smiley face as a trademark in 1971, sells customizable T-shirts
that will look familiar to anybody who's ever used AIM.
: One beautiful thing about emoticons: The keystroke expressions can be put to virtually limitless creative uses. These boobtastic potholders by CrochetandCrafts owe a clear debt of gratitude to Fahlman's very first smiley.
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