Emoji and hashtag creators scoff at 17th Century pretenders

Archivists in Slovakia have stumbled upon 17th Century examples of what the Daily Mail of London last week trumpeted as perhaps the first emoji and hashtag, claims that are being met with dismissive smiles by the actual creators of the ubiquitous modern-day symbols.  

020617blog alleged hashtag closeup Daily Mail

According to the newspaper, curators from the National Archives in Trencin, Slovakia were gobsmacked to find emoji-like and hashtag-like images among the papers of a lawyer named Jan Ladislaides. The former can be seen in the Daily Mail’s tweet about its story, above, and latter can be seen to the left.

Having previously written about the real creator of the emoji (emoticon, smiley) Scott Fahlman, and the father of the hashtag, Chris Messina, I felt it important to reach out to these pioneers for reaction to the newly discovered pretender. You might say they are more bemused than impressed.

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“Well, this doesn't really look like a smiling face to me,” says Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon, via email.  “Maybe a chocolate-chip cookie?  And the clown-hand might have a hashtag-mark on it, or maybe the clown just owns a cat.

“And even if it did clearly look like a smiling face, whether that would qualify as an emoji or an emoticon is a matter of definition. I think it's a big waste of time arguing about definitions.  But, to me, not every face-like image would count.  An emoticon has to be made out of some kind of text characters, and an emoji has to be designed for use in electronic communication.”

And while Fahlman doesn’t like arguing about definitions, he wasn’t done speaking his piece on this one.

020617blog smiling ancient Unknown

“If you want to count ANY face-like image as an emoji, OK. But in that case, I don't think this Slovakian thing is the first.  This image (left) has it beat by a couple of millennia, I think.

“And this (next) one, from Mars, is probably MUCH older, though of course not deliberately created by intelligent life forms... or was it?”

020617blog smile mars3 NASA

As for Messina, creator of the hashtag, asking for his take on the 17th Century claim could only properly be conducted on Twitter, original home of the mark as it is used today:

020617blog messina tweet Twitter

Nice try, Slovakian curators and 17th Century guy, but on matters of this import, facts do still matter.

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