The rise of emoji has hastened the decline of humble emoticons, those punctuational expressions of sentiment that for decades have portrayed feelings of joy :-D, doubt :-/, and unwillingly eating the letter “G” }8-(G). Digiday’s Tanya Dua had the inspired idea to ask the purported inventor of emoticons what he thinks of emoji, and it turns out he does not like them very much at all! He is more than willing to share his emotions on the matter, which figures.

Computer scientist Scott Fahlman unknowingly unleashed a cutesy phenomenon on countless Usenet groups and AOL discussion threads when, in 1982, he typed a colon, a hyphen, and a parenthesis to indicate a joke on his university’s bulletin board system. In the Digiday interview, Fahlman expresses pride in his invention, and he is amusingly cantankerous on the topic of emoji, which he fucking hates. Here are a few of his comments on the shiny, colorful hieroglyphics that have largely superseded his brainchild:

Much later…you started seeing those awful yellow circles. I don’t mind that so much, but I don’t particularly like them. I think they’re ugly.

If people enjoy emojis, great. But I don’t.

I once in a while get a message from a teenage kid in South America or something complaining that there is no volleyball emoticon and why don’t I tell Apple to fix that. Well, I’m not in charge, folks. I don’t even like these.

But once there are 10,000 of these emojis, it becomes hard to find the right one. So they may choke on their own success.


They may indeed choke on their outsized success, Fahlman, and if it happened, there would need to be an emoji for it. Like this:


Cute! Emoji are the best.