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Meet Shigetaka Kurita: The Japanese Software Engineer That First Created EMOJIS In 1999


July 17 is celebrated globally as ‘World Emoji Day’ ad according to statistics, over 6 billion emojis are sent on a daily basis, with over 90% of the world’s online community making regular use of them which makes Emojis one of Japan’s greatest-ever exports.
The first ever set of original 176 emojis was designed by Tokyo-based software engineer, Shigetaka Kurita in 1999. Kurita’s original emojis, licensed to the MoMA by NTT DoCoMo, now sit alongside works by Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock.


In the late 1990s, Kurita working for NTT DoCoMo, one of the largest Japanese mobile telephone operators was involved in the development of the world’s first commercial, mobile-specific internet browser system. Given display limitations in early Japanese smart phone screens, Kurita decided to develop pictograms to make displaying information more effective. Taking their name from the Japanese word for “picture character,” emojis were born.
New emojis are introduced each year and the number of emojis available is still quite small compared to the range and complexity of vocabulary items that a competent native speaker possesses. Currently there are fewer than 2,000 emojis available on a smartphones.

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