Unicode: How the Emoji Achieved World Domination!

There are emoticons everywhere we turn. We find them in our text messages, emails, websites, magazines, signs, advertising and yes, even on our clothing! We've already taken a closer look of the origin and history of the emoticon, but how have they become part of our everyday language? How have emoticons, which started their life as a few keystrokes on a basic computer keyboard, come to be those indispensable colorful icons we use everyday? Well, it's all because of Unicode... I know, you're probably thinking, "What the heck is Unicode?" We wondered that too, and so we dug deep into the world of emoticons an emojis so you don't have to. That's us, crazy about emoticons!

Evolution of the Smiley

Our story begins nine years before the birth of the World Wide Web when someone using an online computer science bulletin board at Carnegie Mellon University typed "colon - dash - parenthesis" on their computer keyboard. To be more precise it was at exactly 11:44 a.m. on September 19, 1982 that Scott E. Fahlman, a research professor at the Language Technologies Institute and Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon, wrote the following email:

 

19-Sep-82 11:44    Scott E  Fahlman           
From: Scott E  Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c>

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:

:-)

Read it sideways.  Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends.  For this, use

:-(

 

It's interesting to note that Scott felt it necessary to instruct the recipients of his email to "read it sideways," which today we would just take for granted!

No one could have anticipated what a revolution had begun with the typing of those three characters. Finally there was a way to convey the nuance and subtly of emotion using the cold logic of a computer keyboard. Sarcasm, jest, dismay, happiness, sadness and many more feelings and emotions could now be communicated with a few simple keystrokes. Many a friendship has been saved by the addition of a little emoticon to convey sarcasm. And many have been lsot by its absence!

It wasn't long before more emoticons where added to the list as inventive computer users learned clever ways to squeeze a variety of emotions out of the standard sequence of keyboard strokes:

Variations on the smiley or happy face
:-] :-3 :-> 8-) :-} :o)

Variations on the frown:
:‑( :‑c :‑< :‑[

Tongue sticking out, cheeky/playful:
:‑P :P X‑P :‑Þ

Angel or Saint: O:‑)
Bored/Yawning:|‑O
Dumb, Dunce-like: <:‑|
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What is Unicode?

Unicode is a computing industry standard in use throughout the world which establishes standards for the encoding and display of text in most of the world's writing systems. It insures that when you type an "S" or a ";" (semicolon) or any other character on your keyboard, in English, Swahili, or Greek, it will render correctly to your recipient. In fact, Unicode contains a repertoire of over 137,000 characters covering 146 modern and historic scripts. Thank goodness for Unicode!

But what does this have to do with emoticons and emojis? Plenty! As emoticons evolved from character-based renderings composed of a few standard keyboard characters, into the colorful, graphics-oriented icons we know today, the challenge became one of universality: how do you get the emojis to render the same on any device, anywhere in the world? Unicode, with its established standards of representing and handling text could provide the perfect solution. Recognizing this, in 2007 some folks at Google decided to petition to get emojis recognized by the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit group that works to maintain text standards across computers. In 2010, Unicode accepted Google's proposal.

The Unicode Consortium adds new emojis to its approved list each year. Below is a chart of a partial list of current emojis. This is by no means exhaustive, but you can see how far we've come from Scott E. Fahlman's smile and frown!

Thus, thanks to the standards set by the Unicode Consortium, emojis have achieved world domination!

 

😀 😁 😂 😃 😄 😅 😆 😇 😈 😉 😊 😋 😌 😍 😎 😏
😐 😑 😒 😓 😔 😕 😖 😗 😘 😙 😚 😛 😜 😝 😞 😟
😠 😡 😢 😣 😤 😥 😦 😧 😨 😩 😪 😫 😬 😭 😮 😯
😰 😱 😲 😳 😴 😵 😶 😷 😸 😹 😺 😻 😼 😽 😾 😿
🙀 🙁 🙂 🙃 🙄 🙅 🙆 🙇 🙈 🙉 🙊 🙋 🙌 🙍 🙎 🙏
🤐 🤑 🤒 🤓 🤔 🤕 🤖 🤗 🤘 🤙 🤚 🤛 🤜 🤝 🤞 🤟
🤠 🤡 🤢 🤣 🤤 🤥 🤦 🤧 🤨 🤩 🤪 🤫 🤬 🤭 🤮 🤯
🤰 🤱 🤲 🤳 🤴 🤵 🤶 🤷 🤸 🤹 🤺 🤻 🤼 🤽 🤾 🧹
🥀 🥁 🥂 🥃 🥄 🥅 🥆 🥇 🥈 🥉 🥊 🥋 🥌 🥍 🥎 🥏
🥐 🥑 🥒 🥓 🥔 🥕 🥖 🥗 🥘 🥙 🥚 🥛 🥜 🥝 🥞 🥟
🥠 🥡 🥢 🥣 🥤 🥥 🥦 🥧 🥨 🥩 🥪 🥫 🥬 🥭 🥮 🥯
🥰 🥳 🥴 🥵 🥶 🦠 🦡 🦢 🥺 🧀 🧁 🧂 🥼 🥽 🥾 🥿
🦀 🦁 🦂 🦃 🦄 🦅 🦆 🦇 🦈 🦉 🦊 🦋 🦌 🦍 🦎 🦏
🦐 🦑 🦒 🦓 🦔 🦕 🦖 🦗 🦘 🦙 🦚 🦛 🦜 🦝 🦞 🦟
🦰 🦱 🦲 🦳 🦴 🦵 🦶 🦷 🦸 🦹 🧺 🧻 🧼 🧽 🧾 🧿
🧐 🧑 🧒 🧓 🧔 🧕 🧖 🧗 🧘 🧙 🧚 🧛 🧜 🧝 🧞 🧟
🧠 🧡 🧢 🧣 🧤 🧥 🧦 🧧 🧨 🧩 🧪 🧫 🧬 🧭 🧮 🧯
🧰 🧱 🧲 🧳 🧴 🧵 🧶 🧷 🧸

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