Last Saturday I was eating dinner at a friend’s house, and we had a small room of nerds. Two developers, one IT-Pro and an engineer. Somehow we started talking about SMS, and why the character constraint. We couldn’t quite agree on the reason for why it’s just 160 characters. Let’s get to the bottom of this.
While there are plenty of articles online claiming that the reason was this one guy, Friedhelm Hillebrand , did some random research on written communication and came to the conclusion that 160 would do. And then it became the standard. Really?
This is how I understood the 160 character limit after some research:
Friedhelm Hillebrand did indeed, together with other researchers, study what a meaningfull limit would be for written (but short) communication- to test whether or not people would find the service useful if limited by the number of characters. Positive that it would work, the limit was then set to a max of 160 characters transmission size. AS for why, and please correct me if my information is wrong, is because the current hardware of the GSM mobile handset devices at that time was limited to 140.
Due to the popularity of SMS several services have followed the model, such as Twitter- where a ‘tweet’ is limited to 140 characters, as the remaining 20 are for the username.
Now, I would LOVE to get some information about this- so if you know anything about this topic please share,- let’s get all the facts down once and for all 🙂