The History and Making of Emojis

The History and Making of Emojis

Having started out as a simple way to convey emotion when communicating online, emojis have become part of everyday life, and it’s hard to remember a world without these emotive symbols popping up on a nearby screen. At Lucky Pants Bingo, we even offer our players an Emoji Bingo room, where a whole menagerie of emojis have taken over the online bingo balls… and do most of the talking, as only emojis can.

If you think of “emoji” as a kind of language, then it’s the fastest-growing lingo in the world. It spans geography, cultures, generations and operating systems, and anyone can become “fluent” in it almost instantly. Let’s find out more about the history of these characters and how they’re dominating the way we communicate, not only online, but in other areas of our lives too!

It’s ancient history

For millennia, people have been painting, drawing, and carving faces that show different emotions to convey events or feelings. There’s even a record of a 17th-century Slovak notary using a tiny, happy-looking face to congratulate town officials on the sterling way they’d handled public finances.

But we need to go back to 30 March 1881, which is when emojis’ official history starts. The American satirical magazine Puck published a minor article on “typographical art”. Expressions of joy, melancholy, indifference and astonishment were depicted using typography only.

Birth of the emoticons

It seems the article failed to spark an interest in so-called typographical art because the subject didn’t come up again in conversation until 19 September 1982, when a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in the US brought up the idea of using “joke markers” on the institution’s online bulletin boards to reduce misunderstandings.

Then in the 1990s, around about the same time online slots and online bingo were born, emojis – still in crude emoticon form – started appearing on digital platforms. In May 1997, online service provider AOL’s Instant Messenger introduced “Buddy Icons”. These were rudimentary images that made it easy to communicate an emotion, action, or even a status.

Organising emojis

While proving extremely handy to use, emoticons weren’t organised into anything resembling a set until a Japanese artist, Shigetaka Kurita, started to think about finding a simple way to send information on the mobile platform he was working on. By February 1999, he had created the first set of 176 emojis that were mainly symbols and objects, with few faces to be found among them.

From then on, the history of emoji speeds up considerably. In 2003, Microsoft introduced 30 emoticons to MSN Messenger 6. Google included the characters in Gmail in 2007 as a way of expanding its presence in Japan and Asia. It also developed a unified set of code points for each emoji, which meant they’d be rendered the same from one screen to the next.

Skip forward to 2008, 23 October to be precise, and Google went public with 79 animated emojis for Gmail. Unfortunately, support was limited to messages sent to the mobile mail of Japan’s top three telecom carriers.

Not to be left behind, Apple released iOS 2.2 a month later with its own set of emojis, but users outside Japan had to access the characters via apps in the Apple Store.

Buoyed by the popularity of these little guys, two Apple engineers, named Yasuo Kida and Peter Edberg, formally submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium in the US (a non-profit organisation that maintains and publishes the information technology standard for consistent encoding, representation and handling of text) for the adoption of 625 emoji characters on 5 March 2009. On 12 October 2010, after being accepted by the Unicode Consortium, most emoji characters were allocated to an “emoji block” with the release of Unicode 6.0. You could say that this is when emojis first became officially organised.

A year later, Apple relented and added an emoji keyboard to iOS 5, negating the need for users to access an app to use emojis.

Enter the golden age of emojis

As you know, these days it’s easy to access all your favourite bingo games whenever it suits you, and there is a growing selection of slots online and even hybrid games like Slingo (a combination of slots and our favourite numbers game).

The emoji has had a similar rise to popularity and fame, because when ways of communicating really connect with people, they catch on. Here are some of our favourite highlights:

Amazon Mechanical Turk workers translated Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick, into emoji! The 735-page Emoji Dick was published in 2013 and a copy included in the US Library of Congress.

The release of Unicode 8.0 introduced skin-tone modifiers in 2015, which allowed users to share human emojis with five skin colours.

Oxford Dictionaries announced that the 2015 Word of the Year was the "face with tears of joy" emoji (??, as if you didn’t know).

Animation feature The Emoji Movie was released in July 2017 and global box-office takings exceeded £150 million.

Lucky Pants Bingo introduced Emoji Bingo, which lets emojis do most of the talking!

Play all the games you can visualise at Lucky Pants Bingo

Now that we’ve finished immersing you in all things emoji, why not join the expressive family of icons inside our “emojional” bingo room, or sign up to play online bingo games with a wide selection of other themes to enjoy? You’ll be spoilt for choice, with instant scratchcards, slots and games galore!

/ 29 December 2021