Monday, May 4, 2009

Why text messages are limited to 160 characters

L.A. Times has an interesting article on Friedham Hillebrand, a communications researcher who is actually responsible for why SMS text messages are limited to 160 characters.

Back in 1985, Hillebrand worked with a group on developing a standard for mobile phones to send and receive text messages. As chairman of GSM's nonvoice services committee he came up with the idea of transmitting messages in the radio channels phone already used to figure out reception stength. Due to the tight bandwidth constraints, the initial length was 128 characters, notjavascript:void(0) the 160 Hillebrand had, after a series of experimentation and studies, decided was perfect. After all, they found out that most postcards and Telex (a then-prevalent telegraphy network for business professionals) messages contained no more than 160 characters.

So after several rounds of tweaking, the group was able to squeeze out 32 more characters. Then they managed to convince mobile operators to support the new standard. The rest, as they would say, is history.