Who is the Emoticon inventor?

In this rapidly expanding age of technology, we often interact with digital media and tools in order to communicate with one another. From social media networks, smart phones, and laptops, we are constantly using digital platforms and tools to share our thoughts and feelings.

In our virtual world, feelings are often not only expressed with words, but also, by using emoticons. These keyboard characters used to express facial expressions, which are now almost universally recognized, haven’t always existed.

In trying to answer the question, “who is the Emoticon inventor?”, we change our understanding of a tool that many of us use every day, and come to imagine a time, not so long ago, when the emoticon did not exist.

Scott Fahlman – Emoticon Creator

Many people credit the first emoticon to Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. However, as with many inventions, there are often multiple people at different times and places that come up with similar, if not the same ideas.

On his own website, Fahlman confirms that he is not the only, but one of many inventors of the first emoticon. Working at Carnegie Mellon University, Fahlman explains that sarcastic or joke emails were often misunderstood, creating email conflicts.

To mark these jokes, Fahlman came up with a simple emoticons that would solve any future miscommunication. He also came up with to mark serious emails, which has now become used to express sadness.

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Other emoticon inventors

Although Fahlman is said to have invented the original smiley emoticon, he is not the first person to use the emoticon. In 1969, Vladimir Nabokov, the famed author of Lolita, said in an interview with the New York Times, “”I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile — some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket.”

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A 2014 Atlantic article argued that the first emoticon appeared in a poem from 1648 by Robert Herrick. Others argue that this was a simple printing error.

Emoticons from around the world

There is a distinction between emoticons used in Western cultures and East Asian ones. Usually, the Western emoticons have the eyes on the left, followed by a nose and mouth, and require the viewer to tilt his head in order to interpret the sign.

Many East Asian emoticons use icons that don’t require the viewer to tilt his head. The Japanese were credited for inventing this style of emoticon, called the “kaomoji”.

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Funny Emoticon Fact

In 2000, Despair, Inc. obtained a U.S. trademark registration for the “frowny” emoticon when used on “greeting cards, posters and art prints.” However, this was an ironic and fake trademark that was meant to make a social comment on corporate culture.

Video: Who Invented Emojis?

Learn more in this fascinating video – we learned a lot of new things and you will too!


Whether we use the Western or East Asian emoticon conventions, all emoticons are meant to convey emotions through pictures, and can be universally understood. No matter the inventor, the language of emoticons will be passed on from generation to generation.

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