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A weekly show where we endeavor to answer one of your big questions. This week, Emily asks, "Where did emojis come from?"

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Hi I'm Craig, colon, parentheses, and this is mental_floss video.  Today, I'm going to answer Emily's Big Question, where did emojis come from?  Let's get started.


Let's start by talking about emoticons, because they were the predecessors to emojis.  In an 1881 issue of Puck Magazine, there was the first known intentional example of expressing the faces made out of punctuation.  There were a few times these popped up in print before then, but we don't know for sure if they were on purpose or typos.  Like in the Bible when God said, "Let there be light ;)"  It might have been like, a little smudge on the page.  We don't know for sure.

They've maintained a presence in text since then, and they were incorporated into computer lingo as early as 1982.  By the 2000s, they were pretty ubiquitous.  Emojis are a little different because they're not made out of punctuation or symbols you could type.  They're little images that have been designed by someone, we don't know who, someone, and they first gained popularity in Japan.  In fact, the 'E' in 'emoji' can be translated to 'image' and 'moji' means 'character' in Japanese.  Image character.  Boom!

A man named (?~1:06) Kurita gets credit for inventing emojis.  He worked for the company DoCoMo in the 1990s and was part of a team developing a mobile internet platform known as i-mode.  The company already had success with adding a heart symbol to the keyboard of its pagers, so developing a set of emojis for i-mode was the next logical step.  Initially, DoCoMo hoped to outsource the creation of emojis to another, larger company like Panasonic or Fujitsu, but they eventually decided to do the designs themselves.  

So Kurita and his team designed 176 12x12 pixel emojis.  They used other Japanese art forms like manga for inspiration.   These emojis got loaded into i-mode in future DoCoMo phones.  That's right, I say manga, 'cause I'm really into manga.

By 2000, 6.5 million people used i-mode, and emojis grew in popularity.  One of the reasons Kurita thinks the trend took off is because Japanese people were adapting slowly to technology when it came to language and communication.  He claims that they're accustomed to writing long letters, so it was helpful to have little symbols that could help convey emotions.  Emojis made people less wordy, which is something I struggle with.  I tend to talk a little bit too much.  I should probably use emojis more often because it'd just be helpful 'cause I would probably say a lot less words and stuff.

More companies started developing their own sets of emojis.  This meant that if you had a different cell phone provider than one of your friends, it wasn't guaranteed that they'd receive the emojis in your texts.  Agh!  That's why I don't have friends.  Or sometimes the emojis would show up as the wrong ones.  

In 2007, there was a turning point when Google decided to add emojis.  They teamed up with a company to coordinate code points.  These are what make it possible for emojis to appear the same regardless of platform or device.  Nowadays the company Unicode Consortium is responsible for the code points of the emojis we all use on our phones and Twitter.

The Unicode Consortium basically dictates the keyboard rules for every major company, Apple, Microsoft, Google, mental_floss.  

Thanks for watching mental_floss video, which is made with the help of all of these emotional icons.  If you have a big question of your own that you'd like answered, leave it below in the comments.  See you next time.  I wish I was an emoticon.  Or an emoji.  What is the difference?