‘Father of SMS’ dies age 63

Matti Makkonen, a man described as the ‘reluctant father of SMS’, has died age 63.

The first text message was sent on December 3 1992, but it was almost a decade before that the idea was first mooted by Finnish telecoms pioneer Makkonen. At a conference in 1984, he put forward the idea of a messaging service to operate over mobile phones. His suggestion went on to become SMS.

Despite his eminent reputation, Makkonen refuted claims he was the ‘father of SMS’, suggesting instead that it was a joint effort with the input of other engineers. He was also at pains to point out that the development of Nokia’s 2010 handset, with its easy-to-write messaging function, played a huge role in bringing SMS to the masses.

So ill-at-ease was Makkonen with his label that he shied away from public attention, only actually gaining the reputation after a journalist tracked the earliest mention of text messaging back to him after a full investigation.

In a rare interview with the BBC in 2012 (conducted over text, naturally), Makkonen was asked whether he regretted not patenting his idea, as he didn’t make any money from it. “I don’t think I made a patentable innovation,” he replied, “but was one of the early persons to understand the need and concept.”

The cause of death has not been revealed, beyond “an illness”.

Tributes have poured in from across the world, with many noting that the industry has lost a true visionary. In fact, the text interview with bbc.co.uk saw Makkonen answer the question of big ideas he had for the future with “integration of mobile content display to my eyeglasses would be nice. Maybe someone is working with it?”