Have you ever wondered where emojis come from? Why do we have little heart and poop symbols to send to our friends and annoy our parents? Mental Floss, as part of their Big Question series, has the answer for you. To begin with, they look at emoticons, the ancestor of the emoji. Did you know the first ones appeared in a magazine in 1881? There were symbols for joy, melancholy, indifference and astonishment. Yeah, that sounds like 1881. (To be clear: Emoticons are the use of symbols like parentheses and colons to make emotion symbols. Emojis are actual pictures of said emotions/animal/etc.)
Emojis come to us from Japan and almost literally translate thusly; “e” translates to “image” and “moji” to “character” and actually has nothing to do with the word emoticon. The first emojis were created around 1998 by Shigetaka Kurita, who was working for NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode mobile internet platform. The first 176 12×12 pixel emojis were part of the i-mode messaging feature. Many of the symbols were inspired by manga. According to the video, Kurita thought the symbols became so popular because Japanese culture was adapting slowly to communication over mobile devices. People were used to writing long letters and this gave them a sort of shorthand to express a thought. The problem? Different mobile characters had different emojis and they didn’t always show up correctly.
In 2007, Google adopted emojis and everything changed. They had the same code points so they could show up in exactly the same way, no matter what device you’re using. You don’t want your hamburger emoji to look all wonky, do you? A company called Unicode Consortium is now responsible for them and all your spinning hearts, cat smily faces and tiny martinis look right, whether you’re a Mac or a PC person.
We want to hear from you. Do you use them as obsessively as I do? Are you quietly judging me for it? Do you have a favorite emoji? Tweet me/us @JennaBusch/@Nerdist and spill your emoji secrets. It’s the poop, isn’t it? It’s totally the poop.