NFT of world's first text message sells for €100,000 at auction

(Image credit: Vodafone)

A non-fungible token (NFT) of the world’s first ever text message has sold at auction, raising €100,000 for charity.

An NFT is a unique digital asset that can be anything from an image, an article or a media file and are stored and traded on the Blockchain.

The distributed nature of Blockchain eliminates the need for a centralised body to authenticate and verify transactions, increasing visibility and transparency, making it easier to determine ownership, and reducing the risk of fraud.

Vodafone NFT

This particular NFT offered bidders the ownership of a unique, detailed replica of the SMS, which was sent on the Vodafone network on 3rd December 1992. The auction was run by Aguttes Auction House in France, with funds raised for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

“The first printed book, the first phone call, the first email – all these inventions have changed our lives and communication in the world,” said Auction house founder Maximilian Aguttes. “This first text message received in 1992 is a historic testament to human and technological progress – we are delighted to be able to support the sale of this landmark piece of history for this cause.”

“We’re proud to be bringing together a major technology innovation from our past with cutting-edge technology of today, to help people in desperate need of support,” added Vodafone UK CEO Ahmed Essam.

The message in question was sent by Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old British engineer who used his computer to send “Merry Christmas” to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone. The technology was built into the 2G standard as a universal service, allowing anyone with a compatible handset to send a 160-character message to anyone else.

The feature was hugely popular and at its peak in 2011, more than 39.7 billion texts were sent in just three months in the UK. However, SMS has since been superseded somewhat by over-the-top (OTT) messaging applications like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, as well as business applications like Microsoft Teams and Slack.

A successor SMS called Rich Communication Services (RCS) has been developed to combine the universality of texts with the rich media features of OTT applications. Supporters include Google and the GSMA but it is probably that the success of any standard would rely on Apple’s involvement.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.