It’s a cold Fall, New England night in 2012.
I’m laying back on my dorm room bed.
Still buzzed from whatever, college party.
I just come from and emboldened by the shots of cheap.
I decide to drunk text this guy.
I like This is a younger Simone.
I sent some version of hey, want to come over question mark and I wait and wait and wait until finally, he replies instead of a yes or a no or an absolutely.
You deserve the world queen.
A shooting star emoji.
Not an answer in plain English.
No, that would be too dignified a shooting star Emoji.
What does this mean?
Is that like, I’m shooting over to your place or like, I’m shooting you down in the most indirect way possible.
I’m so confused.
All I can do is literally hold the phone what it actually ended up meaning was, I’m going to talk to you.
For exactly one more week and then never again, but this episode isn’t about my college heartbreak.
It’s about emojis which we humans send by the billions every day, and I’m willing to bet that a whole bunch of them, leave their recipients feeling, like I did confused, which is ironic, because it turns out, that’s exactly what these little icons were designed to prevent from gimlet media.
This is not past it a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind.
Every episode, we take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.
I’m Simone plannin on September 19th, 1982 39 years ago this week computer scientist.
Dr. Scott fahlman introduced the world to the first digital representation of a face: - sign parenthesis.
We know it as the smiley face emoticon.
This simple act set the stage for a revolution and more nuanced digital communication, all the way to our beloved emojis, you know, the smiling poops.
The sexy, peaches the hard eyes.
We’ve got over 3,000 emojis at our fingertips.
So why does it sometimes feel like we still can’t get our message across?
Round this episode is going to be flame emoji.
To understand how we found ourselves in a world full of cute little digital characters with a cute little name emojis.
We need to First, go back to the OG digital pictorial representation the emoticon.
It’s September 1982, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Scott fahlman is sitting in his concrete block of an office at Carnegie Mellon University staring at a blinking cursor.
Scott is a research computer scientist, which means he basically spends his time researching artificial intelligence advising PhD students and playing around on early versions of the internet at Carnegie Mellon.
Scott his colleagues and some students are really into these online bulletin boards called be boards.
They use them to communicate all kinds of things from announcements to Lost and Found items to arguments about dicey, political issues, but on the be bored, Scott’s discovering some holes and what he can and can’t say with words on a screen.
If you made a sarcastic remark, there was always some clueless person out there who wouldn’t get the joke that’s got himself in a 2014 interview on CBS Sunday Morning on the be boards.
Scott was looking for a way to communicate something simple joke, Enos a couple of other people on the boards had proposed, some solutions.
How about an exclamation point at the start of a jokey post or how about a hashtag, because it kind of looks like an open mouth laughing.
I know sorta Scott wasn’t feeling any of these suggestions, but then he had a stroke of Genius or more like three key strokes of Genius.
He took to the be boards and sent out the following message.
I said, I proposed the following character sequence for joke markers, and then the colon minus in parentheses.
I said, read it sideways.
It is probably more economical to Mark things that are not jokes given the current trends for this use:. - and the parenthesis the other way that looks like a frowny face and just like that, the smiley face and the frowny-face emoticons were born, emoticons icons of emotion.
These little guys caught on quickly around Carnegie Mellon and soon Beyond be an early version of the internet called the arpanet over this experimental Network.
Traveled to other universities like MIT and Stanford and corporate research Labs at companies like Xerox within just a few months, other smiley faces, started popping up, like open mouth surprise colon minus sign.
Oh, and person wearing glasses.
The number 8 minus sign parenthesis.
It was clear.
People liked this enhanced form of expression.
Sometimes it’s to express ourselves more precisely.
Sometimes it’s to express ourselves and carry the kind of emotional Nuance that we would carry with our voice.
That’s Mark Davis Elite internationalization, architect at Google, which basically means he makes sure that computer operating systems all over the world can talk to each other and Mark, says that digital representations of emotion like the emoticon help.
Two words on a screen.
When we write text.
We are missing a host of features that make our normal communication work when I’m talking to you right now.
I can see your face.
I can see you’re blinking.
You’re smiling, you’re frowning and text eliminates that there’s no tone of voice there.
And, of course, if you’re a Jane Austen or Shakespeare, you don’t need that to make it come alive, but But for the average person, it’s difficult to give it Nuance.
I’m a child of the internet.
Okay, after school, back in the early 2000s, I would be glued to my AOL Instant Messenger, trying to make friends at a new school.
If I were to send a TTYL and not follow that up with some kind of smiley face.
That would be full on social.
Aside, people would be like talk to you later.
Okay, is she angry with me?
Is she sick?
Like, what’s wrong with her emoticons?
Let the girlies know.
Hey, we’re good.
I’m just here to have a goofy friendly time.
What is more stressful than Middle School?
As I was blasting out these little punctuation mark faces on computers.
The size of small Boulders on the other side of the world.
Another kind of digital icon was emerging the emoticon successor.
If you will, they’re more colorful pseudo, progeny the Emoji.
Emojis emerged in Japan in 1997.
When the Japanese company SoftBank released a mobile phone, that included 90 of these little images and fun.
Fact Emoji is a Japanese word that actually roughly translates to pictograph in English.
Nothing to do with emotion.
Like Mind blown Emoji.
The early set, where these pixelated images, a broken heart, a baby, penguin, and famously the smiling poop.
The poop was there from the beginning.
These emojis were wildly popular, in Japan.
I mean, how could you resist over time?
Other Japanese telecom.
Companies got hip to the trend and stretch out to create their own sets, releasing new emojis into the world.
For a time.
It wasn’t clear.
These sweet, little wide-eyed faces.
Handy hand gestures and luxurious locales.
Would ever see the light of day, beyond their native country until a certain tech company where Mark Davis happened to work came knocking.
A team inside of Google saw that in order to, to adapt Gmail to work with different telecoms in Japan.
They really had to work with these Emoji characters in 2006.
Google was looking to launch Gmail in Japan.
And like Mark said, they knew they couldn’t get anywhere.
Without being able to incorporate these little images that have been exploding across the country for nearly a decade at that point, but there was an issue since all these Telecom, Companies had their own versions of emojis.
Google had to figure out some Universal way to make sure they showed up correctly from user to user and device to device.
So they turn to mark because on top of his job at Google Mark is also president and co-founder of this organization called the Unicode Consortium.
What we do is we set out the standards that allow all computers to talk to one another.
With text Unicode solves, a really complicated problem.
Making sure computers can talk to each other across different languages and operating systems.
They do that basically by giving every character in thousands of languages all modern ones and even ancient ones a distinct code.
That’s how you get the name unicode.
One universal code.
So, whenever you hit a key on a keyboard, the key that you press is generating a Unicode code, which represents an a, for example, if you send that in a message to somebody, then it’s going over the wires Unicode.
It’s coming up on their phone or computer, or whatever as Unicode.
So, if Gmail expanded into Japan, Google knew that these emojis needed distinct codes of Their own just like characters from any other language.
Otherwise the images from different operating systems and devices would be unreadable and just show up as little shaded squares, not everyone, at Unicode, thought these little images were deserving of the group’s attention, but Mark, finally won them over and were able to get the technical committee to agree to expand the scope of Unicode to deal with this as as a compatibility issue.
So, Unicode agreed to code for emojis to now, Japanese Gmail users.
Could send these images over the email platform.
This allowed these little icons to continue flourishing in Japan.
And several years later.
I’m sure you guys are familiar with the emoticons, which are or emoticons, or whatever.
I don’t know, the little smiley faces that you can make in text messages.
Well, now that keyboard is actually built into iOS 5.
I’m going to show you how to get it on your message.
In 2011, Apple released iOS 5 an update to the iPhone operating system.
Meaning every iPhone had a built-in emoji keyboard, as well as the ability to send and receive these characters.
Now, the rest of the world could shoot off flames, and aliens.
And those two girls with the leotards and their legs sticking out.
Are they dancing or are they like power posing at the same time?
I myself started firing off emojis, like crazy showering my friends with hearts and hard eyes and kissy faces Snapchatting.
Guys, with the side eye emoji and then not getting a response.
I was not very lucky in love and the early 2010’s.
What I’m getting at is I was online and glued to my smartphone more than ever and emojis were with me every step of the way.
Today, these little icons feel like their own language.
I personally am unable to look at a peach or an eggplant without thinking about their, you know, other connotations.
And at this point, I can have a sustained texting conversation, that is predominantly made up of Smiley’s emojis.
Represent our support our joy, our horniness, but you know what, it’s 20, 21 and I still don’t have an emoji to express basic stuff.
Like I’m getting my hair braided or I have an afro.
I have a lot of hair specific needs and what’s up with that?
Why do some things places and people get represented and others?
Don’t thinking face emoji after the break?
Before the break, we went on a worldwide journey in search of more Nuance digital communication from the halls of Carnegie Mellon University where the emoticon was born to the cell phones of Japan which displayed the world’s first emojis.
Then Unicode ushered those little icons across the sea, Crash Landing in Gmail messages and iPhones worldwide.
In that first Emoji set.
There were just over 700 little images to communicate with what more could we possibly want?
Turns out quite a bit. 700 images, just doesn’t come close to expressing the breadth of our experiences.
See if you’re using an emoji.
To represent a Feeling.
An idea you have and you can’t find an emoji.
That looks like you then it doesn’t tell your story emojis weren’t capturing the world’s diversity and unicode had a problem on their hands.
So they did the thing that all large organizations do.
They created a subcommittee.
It’s a merry band of Misfits that range from folks who are in technology to folks who are linguists to cultural agents.
Jennifer, Daniel is the current chair of unicode’s emoji subcommittee.
She also leads Google’s own Emoji program.
There’s a lot of cross-pollination like this going on.
She says, in some ways, the Emoji subcommittee at Unicode is a labor of love is an eclectic.
Group and they’re all volunteers.
It’s a not-for-profit organization.
So everyone is committing their time and resources out of the goodness of their heart, but don’t let that fool you.
This largely Anonymous.
Merry band of Misfits have got quite a bit of power because they are the people responsible for approving new Emoji.
They meet every week for about two hours to review, proposals and debate whether or not they’re worth adding to the keyboard.
They go over stuff.
Like, do we really need a green car when we already have a blue car and a red car and also as a bubble tea emoji absolutely necessary.
Personally, I think it is very much.
So, of course the subcommittee gets hit with way more.
Proposals than that, particularly in the arena of representation when emojis were first released, most of the humans, basically.
Looked white Unicode finally attempted to address this issue in 2015, when they rolled out, five skin tone variations, the emojis on your smartphone are getting a lot more diverse.
Apple is testing out characters that would allow you to change their skin tone.
The emojis in 2017.
Millions of women who wear head scarves were finally represented through Emoji.
Most yet sixteen-year-old Saudi National Rifle, who made he submitted a proposal for a hijab Emoji to the Core?
Operation that reviews and develops.
Then you keyboard symbols.
A suggestion was accepted, by the Unicode, has also rolled out more inclusive same-sex, couple and family emojis and recently emojis for people living with disabilities in here.
A number of disability themed emojis will be made available shortly.
Including we have a prosthetic arm, a leg, an ear with a hearing aid, a guide dog.
The gendering of emojis though has been especially tricky for a while.
It seemed men got to do all the jobs construction, worker, cop, private eye and the women.
They got all the girly stuff rides, princesses.
Luckily that’s changed over time.
But in 2018, when Jennifer Daniel, first joined the Emoji subcommittee, she noticed something deeper as it related to gender at work.
Her and her friend were dealing with a male colleague, who was especially condescending Jennifer was trying to stealthily commiserate with her friend via text.
But her message went through in a totally different way than she intended.
The only reason I do this is because I was doing it in a meeting and she was standing next day and I was like love at Advanced plane person face-palming.
And then I looked at her phone and it said it showed a man and I was like, what is going on?
Jennifer was confused.
Used on her Android phone, she had selected, what looked like a gender nonspecific character face-palming.
But on her friends iPhone the Emoji that popped up was clearly coated to look like a man.
If you’re trying to complain about a man’s planner, but can only express it through the image of a man, kind of defeats the purpose know, as part of her role on the Emoji subcommittee, at Unicode Jennifer started digging and I discovered over a dozen And examples of their being, these gender swaps.
So you would send a murmur person and it would turn into a mermaid or a dead woman, like a zombie.
It would turn into a dead man.
You know, what is gender when you’re the undead?
I don’t know.
But like, at least in terms of how its represented Jennifer was trying to figure out why this was all happening.
And then, an aha moment.
She realized that unicode’s Bible of guidelines simply gives developers recommendations for What emojis should look like, it’s totally up to the companies that make the phones to design, what each Emoji actually looks like.
So, even though, Unicode said, these characters should be gender-neutral when it came time to design.
A lot of those companies were picking a gender.
Mostly turning them into men.
Can you hear me rolling my eyes, when Jennifer found this out, she was pissed.
And she got to work.
So the first solution was just to like, fix those designs so that they didn’t subscribe to the gender binary.
And the second was to add additional code points that weren’t supported Jennifer started, persuading Emoji designers, that their default images.
Shouldn’t be gendered.
She also made sure, Unicode added new code points.
For the characters that existed, which basically meant making sure they all had representations of a man, a woman, and a gender neutral person.
She focused on professions, for example, ensuring there was not only a man doctor and a woman doctor, but a gender-neutral doctor as well.
Same for Teacher farmer, cook, even Santa, she wanted there to be an option for gender non-binary people, but she also wanted it to be possible to not automatically gender a profession or a sports player or just like a person having a mood.
So, like just making sure that all those Emoji have representation around the full gender Spectrum, most I think we added person and Veil person feeding baby next year.
We’ll roll up pregnant person the smartphone about to get a major and we think important update a new Emoji a pregnant man emoji.
Reportedly set to debut in your text messages.
You Tucker Carlson is right on this one.
In addition to a pregnant person emoji with the 2021 update.
Every phone with Emojis will include what appears to be a pregnant man.
She and unfortunately for us Tucker and his bestie have thoughts.
So, Mark Stein, under what circumstances would you use this Emoji in your personal text messages?
Well, that’s what I don’t get because an emoji is supposed to be, you know, Jazz Hannah.
Wow, or it’s you know tears of joy.
I don’t understand in what way the pregnant man emoji assist you with that.
I don’t understand the circumstance.
I’m cool with the idea of the pregnant man.
If you don’t get it, just say that.
Because Emoji have always been up for interpretation.
You can use them literally, or you can switch them up.
For example, Tucker, when people send you clown emojis, they’re not saying you’re literally a clown.
It’s more like your behavior is clownish.
Your words are clown esque.
Your show is circus-like.
Are you following?
So take the pregnant man emoji, you could use it to literally represent a pregnant, man.
And yes, that’s possible.
Read a book, but it could also come in handy.
Say if you just eaten a very large burrito or maybe you’re up and Rihanna’s Instagram comments.
I don’t know.
Just experiment with having one creative thought, for once in your life.
I bet you can figure it out.
I’m gonna send that emoji in every text.
I send every day until they Banned Me from texting.
I don’t think that’s how texting law works, but sure go for it, dude.
This hullabaloo over text Will cartoons, might seem extreme like, this is the hill.
You’re going to die on representation in emoji, but think about it.
This is a keyboard available on practically every smartphone in the world.
The images available, totally influence.
What most of us can and can’t communicate or who gets to be seen, and who doesn’t it is important.
This progress, it helps ensure that our message gets across that were understood that we can express ourselves and our fullness and connect with those around us.
And isn’t that how this whole thing started out, with one computer scientist, using three, punctuation marks to compose a face all.
So he could be a little bit more human in the digital world.
That’s still what we’re trying to do, turns out our current variation on that smiley face.
The tears of joy.
Emoji is the most used Emoji today.
You know, the one that’s laughing so hard.
That’s our number one.
When we connect digitally, we still just want people to know that we’re laughing with them.
We just want to crack jokes with the people we love, and that makes me smiley face.
Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.
This episode was produced by Tom Carroll.
Next week is the return of the history.
Like what is wrong with us?
That we need a hot like a sex icon Eminem.
I can tell you exactly why.
There is a sexy green M&M.
The rest of our team, our producer, Sarah Craig, and Kinzie Clark and Associate producer, Julie Carly.
Our intern is Laura Newcombe.
The supervising producer is Erica, Morrison editing by Andrea be Scott and moral waltz fact-checking by Jane, Ackerman sound design and mixing by.
Matt Bowl, original music, by Sachs kicks, Ave.
J bless and Bobby.
Our theme song is chokehold.
Liana by Coco Co with music supervision by Liz, Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman, the executive producer at CSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte.
The executive producer from gimlet is Abbie.
Thanks to Hannah Simpson, Jane Solomon.
Tyler snugglin, Lydia Pole Green.
Dan Behar and Clara.
Sankey Emily wiedemann.
List Styles and the Beale cholan pot.
Not past it now, too.
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We’ll see you next week.
You don’t need skin tone, modifiers to know that an eggplant Emoji is penis.
That’s it’s sort of established meaning in many, many, many contacts, unless you’re specifically talking about dinner and texting with your mom or something.