NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, November 2012
Text Messaging or “Texting” - Have you tried it yet?
Phil Sorrentino,
Member, Sarasota PCUG, FL
July 2012 issue, PC Monitor
pcugedit (at) verizon.net (click to email author)

If you’re under 20, you probably know all of this, and if you’re over 60, you probably think you have no need for texting (unless you want to keep in contact with someone who is under 20), so for all of you in between, here goes. Texting is a very interesting, and relatively easy, way to communicate with others, using your cell phone.

Texting refers to the exchange of brief text messages between cell phones, over a network. SMS or Simple Message Service is what provides the ability to send these messages via the cell phone network. Today, all the Wireless carriers provide Texting service, typically at a cost of about 20 cents per text (both incoming and outgoing), unless you have a specific texting plan. Texting plans can include unlimited texting or a specific number of texts per month. Texts, unlike voice calls, cannot be rejected or dismissed; when a text is sent to you, you pay for it, whether you wanted it or not.

A text message consists of a series of any of the 26 letters of the alphabet, the 10 numerals, and some special characters (like the space), up to 160 characters long. SMS specifies that text messages are to be 160 characters or less. (You may remember that Twitter, which is based on SMS, limits its “tweets” to 140 characters; this is because Twitter uses 20 characters for addressing of messages.) Most text messages are typically short, and a sort of “short-hand notation” has developed to allow abbreviations or short collections of alpha-numeric characters to convey a longer thought. Some of these may be familiar and some maybe not so much. For a comprehensive list see: http://www.netlingo.com/acronym Some examples are: ASAP As soon as possible, BBFN Bye Bye for now, BFF Best Friends Forever, BTW By the way, CYM Check your mail, NUFF Enough said, GF Girl Friend, C4N Ciao for now, B4 Before, GTG Got to go, IDK I don’t know, ILU I Love You, IMHO In my humble opinion, J/K Just kidding, L8R Later, M4C Meet for coffee, OMG Oh my god, P911 Parent alert, LOL Laughing out loud, P2C2E Process too complicated to explain, C-P Sleepy, SLAP Sounds like a plan, TGIF Thank god it’s Friday, TG2BT Too good to be true, U2 You too.

Texting can be done from any cell phone that has the ability to send alpha-numeric characters, but if you don’t have a phone with a keyboard, texting can be very difficult and tedious. On a phone with only 16 or so buttons, the buttons have to be pressed sequentially in a certain pattern to get the alpha or special characters, (sending a “C” may require pressing the 2 key 4 times followed by a specific key), which makes sending even some of the very short abbreviations very difficult to accomplish with any speed and accuracy. On a phone with a keyboard, texting becomes a much simpler activity. Just find the characters on the keyboard (usually with either of your thumbs), and put together the message, with or without the short-hand notation, making sure to stay within the 160 character limitation.

Although texting was originated using only SMS, today texting can handle pictures, video and sound using the MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service). MMS extends the SMS capability to include these multimedia file types. MMS has become the typical way to share pictures and even videos among cell phones.

Today, text messaging is the most widely used mobile data service, others being voice and email. In the United States, in December 2009, there were 286 million US text message subscribers and they sent 152.7 billion text messages per month, for an average of 534 messages per subscriber that month. Another survey found in May 2010 that 72% of U.S. adult cell phone users have sent or received a text message. Spurred by the unlimited texting plans offered by carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 texts per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier.

Text messaging is most often used between cell phone users, as a substitute for voice calls in situations where voice communication is either, impossible, difficult, or not necessary. (In some regions of the world, text messaging is significantly cheaper than placing a phone call to another cell phone; but in general, text messaging is popular for its convenience, despite the low cost of voice calls.

One of the unfortunate down sides to texting is texting while driving. Texting while driving leads to increased distraction behind the wheel. In 2006, a survey with more than 900 teens from over 26 high schools showed that 87% of the students found texting to be "very" or "extremely" distracting. A later study by AAA discovered that 46% of teens admitted to being distracted behind the wheel due to texting. Please: Never Text While Driving.

Texting even has its own etiquette. One example is: "Keep your message brief.” No one wants to have an entire conversation by texting when a call would be more appropriate. Another example is: "Don't use all Caps.” Typing a text message in all capital letters will appear as though you are shouting at the recipient, and should be avoided. And a last one “Only send texts to people who you think will appreciate them, otherwise use e-mail, or even voice-mail.”

So B4 I go let me say that IMHO texting is GTK NUFF LOL

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