Friday, 19 September 2008

Happy Smiley Anniversary!

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You may want to send a death squad after this man, so if you and your evil plans are discovered, please do not mention the name of this website! However, it was in September 1982 (the 19th to be exact) that a certain computer scientist created the world’s first smiley! Read on to discover more!

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Scott Falman was trying to find a way to communicate a little more tone than emails would otherwise allow. It was, as it is today still, easy to misunderstand the mood of the person when reading electronic messages from them! He suggested that a hyphen, a colon and a closed bracket sign would be perfect to indicate when something was supposed to be funny. The guys at Carnegie Mellon University where he worked must have been a dour bunch for him to have to think this up, but the rest is history. Shame it i sonly the smiley he is remembered for, because it seems to be a dual invention. His preliminary message went like this!

At least he had already realised the humor limitations of most academics! The discussion on the boards of the university had gone on for quite a while about what signs would be the most appropriate, but it is towards Falman that the finger of blame is pointed. However, who was it who had the inspiration for the yellow hue of the smiley face? Forest Gump may claim the fame for that, but perhaps the truth is a little closer to mother nature than we might expect.
Was it a case of life imitating art imitating life, oh, Whatever! The Jewel Box Weave Orber above is also known as the Smiley Face Spider. Perhaps this is where the unknown 'someone' go the inspiration!

Although Vladimir Nabakov had yearned for a typographical sign way back in '69 it wasn't until that dull day at the university that someone put it in to permanent electronic form. Could he have foreseen the amount of copies he may have begat, even if nature did (as usual!) get there first!

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Back to the yellow color for a second. For this we have a certain Harvey Ball to blame. He was a commercial artist and way back in 1963 he thought up the yellow smileyness that we all know and – cough – love today. It was created for an internal marketing campaign for an insurance form. It fell in to the public domain before Ball got a chance to trademark it and the rest is history! A 1967 marketing campaign for an insurance company featured the face too, but the creator of that, David Stern Inc, did not think to trademark it. Fortunate, because who would have wanted Ball V Stern a year or two later?

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If we think like that, perhaps it won't be long before we start seeing smiley faces everywhere we go. No, surely not. Are we that suggestible?

No, that would be silly, wouldn't it?

There is no denying the all-pervasiveness of the image though!

The smiley face has been taken on all over the world. Even artists such as Banksy, whose work can sell for tens of thousands of dollars, are not averse to a little dabble with the shape!

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Wherever, you go, there they are, multiplying in ever increasing numbers. It's like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, only with big yellow faces! Did the guy at the university in 1982 know what he was unleashing upon the world?

It could almost be classfied as a medical condition! Does Smileyphobia exist, or maybe Smileyitis? Can we be at that point where the little guy with the big smirk appears in almost every aspect of our lives, peering at us and smirking inanely?

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That of course would be ridiculous. If that were the case, surely we should all just simply give up the ghost and do a good impression of those thingies in "Twenty Eight Days Later". Society would surely crumble. Wait! It can even get worse! The two main scourges of modern, contemporary living have been seem coming together in an unholy union!

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The smiley and the motivational poster in unholy unison! It's almost enough to make you go to the Doctor and plead temporary insanity. Of course, he would sit you down, tell you to be calm and then proceed to prescribe you some lovely little pills to make it all feel better!

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So, thank you, Scott Falman. You will be remembered and celebrated each September! Anyone for a Smiley Face Day. Come on, Stevie, sing that song!

My thanks to my on-line friend and fellow writer
Glynis Smy for the idea for this blog post! Thanks, Glynis!


Hein Marais said...


Anonymous said...

Neato! And I thought it was Forest Gump that invented that! ;-)

<(_)~ ~~ (mug of hot coffee)


eddiego65 said...

Smiley never fails to bring a smile to my face. :)