Using a smile representation made with round brackets or, simply speaking, a smiley, is a kind of a textual equivalent of a facial expression and gesture, which is commonly used in the virtual space. A sip of aqua vitae in the world of dry remote communication.
The thorough Microsoft employees ransacked the Internet and eventually found the smile inventor – Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania.
The invention was prompted by a bad joke: local computer
science students posted a message saying a University elevator was contaminated with mercury. There was no smiley face, so the message was taken seriously, causing panic followed by a scandal.
That was when it dawned on Fahlman. “I propose,” he wrote on September 19, 1982, “that the following character sequence for joke markers: :-). Read it sideways.”
“Good idea,” his colleagues thought and spread the little laughing face over the local networks. Then the smiley got into the Internet and infected the entire world via computers.
The research and the author it discovered were met with a storm of refutations. Someone remembered Harvey Ball, the American artist
who drew two black dots and a bracket smile inside a yellow circle back in the early 60’s, with no computers involved. The truth did not spring from the argument, while computer programs combined Ball and Fahlman: put a colon, a hyphen and a closing parenthesis and a face in a circle pops up on the screen.
Like the hamburger, the supranational and boundless smiley face seems to be asking to become a symbol of globalization. But no: it has become one already.