Passport

:-) is turning 25! Happy birthday, emoticon!

Today, Sept. 18, is the 25th anniversary of the smiley-face emoticon. At 11:44 a.m. on this day in 1982, Scott E. Fahlman, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, first typed the smiley-face emoticon, :-), on an online bulletin board as part of a discussion about how to signal that an online comment is being made in jest.

The historic phrase, located after a "heroic effort" of digging through ancient backup tapes, reads as follows:

I propose the following character sequence for joke markers:

:-)

Read it sideways.

A reproduction of the original bulletin board thread that gave rise to the emoticon is available here. (The discussion reveals that "&" and "#" were also proposed joke markers. The character "&" supposedly looks like a "jolly fat man in convulsions of laughter," and "#" supposedly resembles "two lips with teeth showing between them.")

Fahlman writes on his Web page about :-): "I've never seen any hard evidence that the :-) sequence was in use before my original post, and I've never run into anyone who actually claims to have invented it before I did."

Fahlman seems to have cemented his place in history as the creator of the smiley-face emoticon, which has spawned the creation of other emoticons and given Internet users worldwide the ability to express what in verbal communication is normally conveyed through tone of voice. In doing so, he has probably helped millions of people avoid all sorts of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. And that should make everyone feel :-).

Passport

When online gaming turns deadly

Cancan Chu/Getty Images News

Think Internet games are just an innocuous, childish pastime? Think again. For one serious online gamer in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, it became a matter of life and death. The 30-year-old man dropped dead from exhaustion in a cyber cafe on Monday after an intense three-day gaming marathon. Unfortunately, he isn't the country's first ill fated victim of online gaming. Earlier this year, a week of non-stop action claimed the life of an "obese young man" who couldn't seem pull himself away from the computer screen to find time to sleep.

China is expected to overtake the United States in Internet users within the next few years, and many of those users will be of the hardcore variety. According to one report, as many as 14 percent of China's estimated 20 million Internet users under the age of 18 could be classified as computer addicts. But we shouldn't lose hope in this young generation quite yet. There's always a trip to Internet-addiction boot camp.