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'Smiley Face' Turns 25

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Digital 'Smiley Face' Turns 25

It was a serious contribution to the electronic lexicon. :-) Twenty-five years ago, Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman says, he was the first to use three keystrokes - a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis - as a horizontal "smiley face" in a computer message.

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Fahlman posted the emoticon in a message to an online electronic bulletin board at 11:44 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1982, during a discussion about the limits of online humor and how to denote comments meant to be taken lightly.

"I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-)," wrote Fahlman. "Read it sideways."

The suggestion gave computer users a way to convey humor or positive feelings with a smile - or the opposite sentiments by reversing the parenthesis to form a frown.

And then the modern irrationalists come out with their interpretation.

In some ways, he added, they also give people "the ability not to think as hard about the words they're using."

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Smileys by David Sanderson is the one of the first -- and the most definitive -- books on smileys. Sanderson, who is described on the cover of the book as "the Noah Webster of smileys" is a long-time Objectivist and real cool guy. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the City of Industry conference.

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