Geek Trivia

Which Of These Is Widely Considered Responsible For Teaching People How To Text Message?

American Idol
Twitter
SMS-based Games
OK Cupid
The Communicator Used By Obi-Wan Kenobi In The Phantom Menace Is Actually A?

Answer: American Idol

Today it seems almost absurd that someone would need prompting to learn how to text, let alone instructions on how to do it–modern phones with touch screen keyboards and well-developed texting apps make sending text messages trivially easy and rather intuitive. Millions of people, however, were first prompted to take up text messaging by a TV show.

When it first aired in 2002, American Idol, a popular American singing competition TV series, featured audience-participation by way of call-in voting. From the semi-finals of the show onward the continuation of any given contestant was determined by public vote. After each individual performance and at the end-of-show recap, a number for each contestant was displayed on the screen and fans could call in as many times as they could in the allotted time to log their votes.

In the second season of the show, they introduced text message voting and you could text your vote into a number, provided via AT&T Wireless sponsorship of the show, to support your favorite singer. Back then, in the not-so-distant-past of 2003, most people weren’t actively texting. Learning how to send a text into American Idol (and then repeating the process over and over again every week for the duration of the show) was their first experience and training in using text messaging. In season two alone, viewers sent in 7.5 million text messages.

All told, AT&T Wireless’s sponsorship of the show was a brilliant marketing ploy that not only promoted their own brand (in the beginning you had to be an AT&T Wireless subscriber to vote via text), but also promoted the then-in-infancy concept of text messaging.