Do You Think Emoticons Are :) or :( ?

Do you use emoticons?The young folks may not believe it, but emoticons -- those silly strings of symbols that are supposed to illustrate emotions -- have been around for 30 years.

Experts attribute their creation to a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who, in 1982, told his students that the class needed a way to label jokes online.

"I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-) Read it sideways," Scott Fahlman wrote on an online bulletin board (the precursor to what we call forums today).

PHOTOS: Pets pretending to be emoticons

But some point to a New York Times transcript of an 1862 speech by Abraham Lincoln, in which "applause and laughter" is followed by a winky smile ";)".

("It looks to me like a typo," Fahlman told New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee in 2009. "I can't imagine an editor putting that in and meaning, 'Ha ha,' trying to emphasize what Lincoln had said. That goes beyond the bounds of editorial comment in a piece of reporting like this.")

Emoticons available on Skype.Emoticons (short for "Emotional Icons") have since evolved to include hair -- @:-) -- and tongues sticking out -- :-P. As instant messaging became popular in the 1990s, emoticons became more cartoonish; they looked like the iconic yellow happy face and were often animated. It was no longer enough to add a sly wink to the conversation with a ;) -- now you had to show your approval with a kiss face or a yellow blob that bounced up and down while it laughed.

As the years went by, emoticons became more and more complicated. On Skype, simply putting a word in parenthesis created an emoticon of that action, from hanging one's head against the wall to giving someone the finger. Instead of a simple smiley, you can add a tiny dancer or a thumbs up to a chat conversation.

Apple had to outdo every emoticon maker to date with the ones it whipped up for its iOS6 platform. Along with symbols for hats, crowns, and manicures, there are tiny icons of families -- gay and straight.

After three decades of use, what do you think? Are emoticons awesome or overrated?


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