Conceptualized by Nicolas Loufrani in 1997 at the height of the early internet age and ASCII (text-based) emoticons. The original set of 3-dimensional Smileys represents not only the ancestral roots of modern-day emojis but also a pivotal inflection point in cultural and linguistic history: the birth of a universal language that embodied the spirit of the internet. In Loufrani’s words: “I created [this set] to replace ASCII emoticons with a universal logographic language, easily understandable by everyone across the globe.”

These Smileys were the first of their kind. They were built with inspiration from the riotously successful text-based emoticons pioneered by computer scientist Scott Fahlman, as well as the iconic original 2D Smiley that Loufrani’s father Franklin had trademarked in 1971. While the initial concepts of the text-based emoticon, such as the 🙂 smiley and 🙁 frowny faces were intended as “joke markers” to provide tonal context to online posts; they were unable to keep up with the nuance of genuine human emotion required to communicate online. People look naturally for signals of intimacy and trust in a human face and, applied appropriately, emoticons can offer a degree of insurance for various adult social interactions. As Loufrani notes, he envisioned a means of using graphical emoticons as “an easy hack to convey an emotion.” After extensive experimentation and research, Loufrani settled on the original set of 42 Smileys.

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