Twenty years since the first text was sent - but what did it say?

Today the SMS, or short message service is celebrating a birthday of 20 years Photo: ITV Central

On average we Midlanders do it fifty times a week and we are doing it three times as much as we did five years ago. We are talking about sending a text message.

And today the SMS, or short message service is celebrating a birthday. It is exactly twenty years since the very first one was sent.

If you're getting a new phone for Christmas, chances are it will run your life for you. Calls, messages, calendars, even mobile TV. The bricks of the 1980s were heavy on the arm muscles but light on uses with only the option of making a call.

Nokia introduced the 1011 on the 10th of the 11th 1992. It was the first mobile phone capable of sending and receiving SMS texts. Three weeks after engineers got the system live, so what did the first text message actually say? It was 'Merry Christmas' and it was sent by Neil Papworth.

The first ever text message said Merry Christmas and was sent in 1992 Credit: ITV Central

Mr Papworth is now living in Canada but back then a 22-year-old engineer. The recipient of his text was the boss of Vodafone, at the office Christmas party.

Mr Papworth talking to Central News from Canada via Skype Credit: ITV Central

"At a particular chosen time I sat down at the computer and typed in his phone number and the message and sent the 'Merry Christmas' to him."

– Neil Papworth

According to Ofcom UK texters sent 150 billion messages last year - the most prolific users - youngsters aged 12-15 - sending an average of 193 each week.

Professor Ellis Cashmore, a lecturer in Culture and Media at Staffordshire University says whatever your age texting can be a convenient screen to hide behind.

"I think text enables us to do things that we would be slightly inhibited about if we were doing them face to face. We can ask people out- someone we've met, we don't like to ask the out for fear of rejection but we can text them a bit later on and ask them. You can dump somebody as well - I've been dumped by text, so I'm not ashamed to say it and I think I'm in pretty good company!"

– Professor Ellis Cashmore

But what about those coded messages? We took to the streets of Birmingham for your instant guide to teenage text speak.

"To be a good texter you need to know the basics." Credit: ITV Central
"The best texters get really inventive - I am staving!" Credit: ITV Central
"Better texters use all the letters - what you up to?" Credit: ITV Central

These days the explosion in alternative forms of communication like Twitter and Facebook means that although we're texting more we're actually sending less SMS messages. Even so, twenty years from now we'll probably still be using the method that started it all.