Being of the 60s vintage I along with many others like me have the unique privilege of exposure to simple and relatively uncomplicated communications methods in our growing years and modern state of the art means. I am referring to what is today referred to as ‘snail mail’ – namely inland letters, aerograms, telegrams and long distance phone calls made from post offices all courtesy good old Post and Telegraph department. A money order too had a small space to put in a note; many a brothers’ have sent ‘Bhaubeej’ gift money this way! Today’s youth may not have much reason to enter the Post Office except probably to mail forms for entrance exams!
As with all other things, technology has revolutionized communications. The cell phone after making a tentative and expensive entry to India is now almost omnipresent. It does more than just allow two people to talk. I was introduced to a unique feature ‘SMS’ with my first cell phone. I soon became a huge fan, communicating with family and friends only by text. It seemed rather like an instantaneous wireless letter one that could be read at leisure whenever one was free or if one did not want to respond, just claim not having received it! But I soon realized the catch. Every message had an upper limit on the number of characters (150 by my service provider). Exceed it and I was charged for 2 or 3 or more depending on how eloquent I was! Before I realized it I was paying exorbitant mobile bills without talking much. Picture messages, which looked so good, were great guzzlers of these ‘characters’.
That’s when I further explored this wonder world, in a bid to get the most out of every message. With plenty of help from my younger friends, I soon got the hang of SMS lingo. By simply removing all vowels from my text, I could enter more words and send more information (that should be info)! One could also maximize characters by just removing spaces between words. English teachers must shudder at this language, which bears a pale resemblance to our British legacy. All unnecessary alphabets were simply done away with. Forget long words, even short ones were further shortened as in you became u and OK became k. Then there were these emoticons, which so beautifully conveyed all I felt.
Today my inbox is full of web links, ring tones, picture messages, jokes, news alerts, cricket score and stock updates, advertisements etc, some by choice but mostly unwanted. TV channels and newspaers often conduct polls and audience opinion through SMS. The tool is so powerful that it can have political and criminal implications.
I am told that the first ‘text message only’ book about a business executive who travels throughout Europe and India has been published by a Finnish author. My search revealed the existance of the world’s ‘first transl8it! dxNRE & glosRE’ (dictionary & glossary) , a comprehensive SMS and text lingo book. There is also a website dedicated to this new language!
This has spawned a specialised message writing career for those not wanting to walk on the well beaten track.. There are speed typing contests for SMS and but getting maximum info into 150 characters can also be a great challenge. Relevant organisers must think about this one!
Need I + NEtng? wot r u w8tng 4? git out yor fone & stA n tuch w yor fRnds & foes. snd DIS msg 2 10 prsnz 2 brng gud luk 2 U & me. :-) msgN.CU L8R.
Phew! And that’s less than 150 characters!