The Father of the Emoticon Chases His Great White Whale
Dr. Scott Fahlman invented a playful keyboard shortcut that is now used more than six billion times a day. But he hopes to be remembered for something a bit more substantial than a smiley face.
Illustrations by Thomas Howes
Every year on September 19, Dr. Scott Fahlman passes out smiley face cookies. He stands outside Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University where he’s been a computer science professor for nearly forty years, and plays campus celebrity. On the same date in 1982, Fahlman invented the smiley-face emoticon. Now, his brainchild, which he simply calls “the smiley,” gets its own university-sponsored birthday party, complete with a table of cookies inscribed with :-) in chocolate frosting.
“Smiley was not available for comment at the time of this writing,” reads a CMU press release, “but has been seen around campus wearing a party hat and seems to be enjoying the limelight. <:-)”
The school graciously embraces having such a lighthearted and fun event associated with their serious, world-class computer science department.
“It’s an occasion for 64,000 selfies with me and J. Random Student,” says Fahlman, sixty-seven. He signs autographs, helps give out cookies and sell sm…