World's First Twitter

By Tom Vilmer Paamand

A political action inspired to the first direct Cell Phone to Web Page.

SMS Cell phone to web online diaries is now called things like Twitters and Moblogs. I had micro-blogging running on my website from May 2000, which seems to be the first known in the world :). Later, at January 2001, Stuart Woodward posted from a cell phone to his LiveJournal on the web, and others started slowly to use the same principle during 2002.

I made a simple script, which converted incoming emails made as SMS from a standard cell phone to a webpage - live to see just after. I actually developed the idea in 1999 with my son Simon Vilmer Pedersen, but first found practical use for it from May 2000.

Juni 2000

This Danish moblog informed about a political action against Denmark's too many highways - we blocked a beautiful area where a bridge should be build. I filled the webpage directly from my cell phone with some fast notes during the day, and edited the text normally in the night.

It was used by journalists to cover the story, and they soon expected it as a source, and complained if I didn't update for some hours. Last update to the webpage was sent while I was being carried away by the police.

From February 2002 our group lived in a tree - as part of the same action as above. We started out in a snow storm and climbed down in the hot summer, when our tree was cut. The 131 days long diary in Danish was done by tweeting live from the tree.

tree house The technology

After the idea is up, the technology is very simple. I was surprised to hear now, that my script was the World's first Moblog or Twitter system - yet without the social networking frame. The history of the web is only few years old, but I am quite sure unknown others must have tried it. In June 2000 I contacted a Danish cell phone company about the idea - but they could not see any use for it. Our national radio had a special technology program about the web - they did not want the story either.

The original moblog from May-June 2000 was written with several different cell phones. In 2001 we got a Siemens M35 cell phone with WAP, but I only used standard SMS piped through special e-mail gateway phone numbers. The design of the web page was prepared, so the text from the cell phones jumped right in to boxes marked with the time. It was done by some small and buggy scripts with PHP and MySQL on my FreeBSD server.

Only twist was to make the strange translations for the special Danish national letters, which acts different when jumping between SMS, mail and web - and between PHP and MySQL. And of course fight with the evil procmail program on my server, to make it drop the right part of the mail - body and time stamp - at the right space. Procmail hates me.

I then made interactive commands from the cell phone as to "see last blog", "erase last blog" and much more. And used the system to remotely make prepared information visible on the webpage, send letters to the newspapers by email and even to send press releases by fax - all by commands from my cell phone.

Then I started playing with the cell phone as a remote control for my other programs, which I found most useful. My programs on the web could send me information, and I could make them obey orders from the cell phone. Well - that could have been a great business concept back then, and the patent rights would have made me a millionaire. But I have never been good at making money...

Today I don't even have a daily blog, but I am still experimenting with the web.

Updated 2009

My memory is no good, but I have now found some more details in my backups and old notes. All the dates are still right, but I have changed the story a bit since we did not get the Siemens M35 cell phone before February 2002. The original moblog from May-June 2000 was written with several other cell phones - I did not own one myself.

I found the last message sent to the web on June 14 2000: "AKTIVISTERNE ER FJERNET AF POLITIET: LIDT I NI." [The activists were removed by the police just before nine]. It was written with all capital letters, and I guess our phones (and I) couldn't do it better then. Those words are all that I could find from the original moblogging to the website.

The messages were collected and visible on the website during the day, and then edited directly in the night. When I did my first SMS to Web stuff I was more interested in making it work, than documenting this historical event :). But I have found my notes and that fund raising letter to a cell phone company describing my then running project and the technique behind, which I had send June 6 2000 - and their negative answer.

When I wrote my first version of this text, I was preparing another moblog for an action against nuclear waste in Germany. But I had to work for money, and never finished it. I also made a project for an Indymedia moblog in Ireland.

Today I have a WM6 phone, which easily can do a lot of the things, that was so tricky in the old days. I am still playing with ideas of how to use the direct connection to the web, and doing near-live journalism directly from the street - with text and picture, plus sound and film. Now mobile text-blogging is called Twitter, but that did still not make me millionaire. And I am still handcoding the old way - Web 0.2.

Tom Vilmer Paamand
  Klemstrupvej 5
DK-8550 Ryomgård, Denmark
  Tlf: +45 5051 0328