The emoticon, punctuation to depict a facial expression, began 30 years ago this week. Using three keystrokes, the colon, dash and parenthesis, to suggest a smile may not be a great scientific advance, like the coronary stent or computer chip. But the emoticon has been simple, useful and enduring.
There had been previous hints of emoticons. A newspaper transcript of Abraham Lincoln drawing a laugh in 1862 follows it with a semi-colon and parentheses, but that may have simply been a printer's typo.