It’s fair to say that non-fungible tokens, better known by its acronym NFT, continue to be extremely polarising. Even in our office, there are some who own NFTs while others aren’t fans of it. Nevertheless, one thing that’s for certain is that their value continues to go on the rise. One new NFT to join the club is that of the world’s first SMS, put up for auction by Vodafone, that just sold for a whopping €107,000 (~RM507,987.27).
The world’s first SMS was just the greeting ‘Merry Christmas’, sent by then 22-year-old Sema Group Telecoms engineer Neil Papworth to Vodafone director Richard Jarvis on the 3rd of December, 1992. The story goes that at the time, Papworth was developing the technology for Vodafone, and actually typed out the message on his computer as back then mobile phones had yet to incorporate a keyboard. His Merry Christmas text was pretty much just the start of a new age of communications, and laid the ground for SMSes, texting, social media and more.
“In 1992, I had no idea that texting would become so popular, and that it would lead to emojis and messaging apps used by millions of people. I only recently told my kids that I was the sender of the first text. Looking back, I can see that this Christmas message was a turning point in the history of mobile communication,” – Neil Papworth
Fast-forwarding to the present day, Vodafone announced the auction of the world’s first SMS as an NFT earlier this week. Vodafone also added that the sale proceeds will be going towards the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). With the auction happening yesterday, the bid eventually went up all the way to €107,000, being won by an undisclosed Canadian but is understood to be involved in the tech industry.
The buyer won’t actually own the 2.1kg Orbitel 901 mobile phone that Richard Jarvis received the SMS on though. Instead, he owns the NFT of it, a digital replica token of the Merry Christmas text. But on top of owning the NFT of it to flex on others, the buyer will also get a replica of the original communication protocol that sent the Christmas greeting over to Jarvis. Curiously, because French law does not permit the sale of an intangible good, the auction house had to create a digital frame displaying the text message, code and communication protocol.
While NFTs themselves tend to be a bit problematic and divisive in nature, it’s perhaps nice to see that the over half a million ringgit from the sale of the SMS NFT is going towards a good cause this time.