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World's first SMS sold at auction as NFT

December 21, 2021

The first text message in history — which reads, "Merry Christmas" — was sold by Vodafone at an auction in Paris. The telecom company said the proceeds will go to the UN's refugee agency.

A cellphone displaying the world's first SMS: "Merry Christmas"
The winning bidder now owns a digital certificate of authenticity of the world's first SMSImage: Vodafone/dpa/picture alliance

The first text message in history was sold at an auction on Tuesday in the form of a so-called nonfungible token (NFT), British operator Vodafone said.

The piece of digital age history sold for €107,000 ($121,000) to an unnamed buyer. 

For legal reasons, the winning bidder will also receive tangible assets, including a digital picture frame to display the SMS.

The Aguttes auction house in Paris, which ran the auction, said it expected the proceeds to range from €100,000 to €200,000.

Are NFTs changing the art world?

Transmitted by Vodafone on December 3, 1992, the SMS consists of 15 characters and reads: "Merry Christmas."

Programmer Neil Papworth had sent the message to a colleague, Richard Jarvis, who received it while he was at the company's Christmas party.

NFT for charity 

Vodafone said it would donate the proceeds of the sale to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

"Technology has always had the power to innovate and change the world," Vodafone quoted the UNHCR's Private Sector Partnerships Service head, Christian Schaake, as saying. 

"Through this combination of groundbreaking tech and movement for social good, UNHCR can continue helping refugees and people who've been forced from home, giving them an opportunity to transform their lives and build better futures for themselves, their loved ones and communities they're living in," he said. 

Maximillien Aguttes, Aguttes auction house's development manager, presents a screen showing a phone with the first ever SMS in the world
Aguttes auction house in France is auctioning the NFTImage: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

What are NFTs?

The digital files act as digital signatures to certify who owns online media.

Creating an NFT is usually done on the Ethereum blockchain network. Blockchain is essentially a public digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computing systems on the blockchain.

The vast computational power needed for mining or validating block transactions has drawn criticism from environmental activists, raising the question of whether NFTs are worth the hype. 

Ethereum blockchain has announced it will make the switch to a less-energy consuming process as soon as next year.

In recent months, the popularity of NFTs has soared. 

In March, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey auctioned his first-ever tweet as an NFT, which fetched $2.9 million. Berners Lee's first source code for the World Wide Web was sold for $5.4 million.

What dangers are hidden within the crypto-art craze?

fb/rt (AFP, dpa)