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The SMS (Short Messaging Service) generation
Everywhere you look, teenagers are doing it. Tapping on the keys of their cell phones, they are SMS-ing each other – or, in plain English, sending each other short text messages. Some are so skilled at text messaging that they can do it without even looking at the keypad. According to the Global System for Mobile Communications, in May of this year alone, more than 19 billion short messages were sent all over the world.
So what exactly is SMS?
SMS, or text messaging, is a feature available in most modern digital phones. It is a telegraphic but intimate way of communicating. Users send and receive short text messages (approximately 160 characters) from one mobile phone to another. The receiver sees the message displayed on the phone. The text message can be delivered whether or not the phone is engaged in a call. The message is automatically saved, and can be read at any time.
Why is SMS so popular?
There are many reasons for the popularity of text messaging.
- For one thing, it's cheap. You can send a short message to a friend for a fraction of the price of making a phone call.
- Secondly, you can send text messages from places where voice contact is impossible; for instance, if you're sitting in the middle of a boring meeting, you can't call up a friend to chat, but you can SMS (and yes, SMS is being used as a verb…).
- Thirdly, if you message people in the middle of the night (when presumably you don't want to take the chance of waking anyone), the message will be saved on their phone until they have an opportunity to read it.
- Finally, you can send messages to a cell phone from your service provider's web site, in some cases for no cost at all.
So how do you send text messages?
Using your phone's menu system, find the command for writing messages.
You are immediately faced with the following problem. While your computer keyboard has a key for every letter, your telephone keypad has three or four letters on every key between two and nine. How do you select the letter you need?
The multi-tap method:
In older phones, the only way to enter a message is to repeatedly press keys to display the desired letters. For instance, the letters A, B, and C all appear on the number 2 key. So to type the letter A, press the number 2 once; to type B, press 2 twice, etc. Pause until the cursor moves to the right and is ready for the next letter.
The dictionary method:
In more advanced cell phones, you can use multi-tap OR you can use the quicker predictive text or ‘dictionary' method. On my phone (Nokia 6310) I press the # key to switch between modes—and on the screen I see the difference as follows:
Multitap: Dictionary: but keep in mind that your phone may use a different method.
Using the dictionary method, you press each key only once per letter. Your phone contains a dictionary of commonly used words, The sequence that you enter is compared to all the words in the dictionary; the phone predicts the word you wish to use and displays it.
To make this clearer, let's enter the word "hello" using both methods:
- To type ‘hello' in the multitap mode, you have to press the following keys:
4-4 for “h”
3-3 for “e”
5-5-5 for “l”
5-5-5 for “l”
6-6-6 for “o”
- To type ‘hello' in the dictionary method, remember that you press each key only one time for each letter. That is, you only have to press 4-3-5-5-6 without pausing.
If more than one word fits the sequence (for instance, ‘good', ‘home' and 'gone' are both typed in by pressing 4-6-6-3), you can move between the possible choices and select the one you want. On my phone, pressing the * (star) key cycles between word choices.
- Press the 0 key to place a space between words.
- To display a number, hold down the number key for longer than usual.
- To enter a punctuation mark or symbol, press the 1 key and cycle between the symbol choices.
Finished your message?
Find the menu option for sending your message.
Key in the recipient's phone number, and press Send.
You'll be surprised how quickly you'll get the hang of SMS and start enjoying the communication convenience it provides. Once you start messaging, you will find it a hard habit to break.