Book Review: Who Invented SMS – Plus: A GSM History Background

One of the books on my reading list for summer vacation was 'Short Message Service (SMS): The
Creation of Personal Global Text Messaging
' by Friedhelm Hillebrand, as I always wanted to know how and who invented SMS. The book contains a very interesting and thorough answer, which I am not going to give you here as it would ruin the suspense, and in addition has some other very interesting details of how the whole GSM system was specified back in the 1980s.

So while I am not going to tell you who invented SMS, here are some insights/thoughts I had/got while reading the book:

  • SMS was specified in the mid 1980s. Incredible, that was 25 years ago! And like many other things in GSM, the impact the feature would have and its reach one day have were completely underestimated at the time.
  • In the 1980s, telecommunication was a national affair, there was no competition and the telecoms companies of different countries specified what they wanted and then handed that to the telecom manufacturers for implementation. While those companies sit in 3GPP and other standardisation fori today, telecoms standardization in the 1980s was a thing of the state owned carriers and telecoms manufacturers seemed to have the role of just implementing what they were given.
  • In standards meetings, there were no companies, there were countries. There are interesting pictures that show name tags on the desks with country names "Germany, France, Denmark", etc. 
  • GSM was a European club for pretty much the first 10 years of its existence. Only in the last third of the book do names of non-European countries show up.
  • Also in the last third of the book, input papers from telecoms manufacturers like Nokia and Motorolla are suddenly mentioned.

So all in all, this book is a very interesting read, not only if you want to know more about how SMS was created but also how GSM came into existence. Fully recommended!

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