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A short history of the hashtag

Category: hashtag Information

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Overhear a random conversation nowadays? You’ll most likely hear some reference to a hashtag. Even my grandma used a hashtag the other day. #youknowyouhaveacoolgrandmawhen But really, where did the hashtag thing come from? To you and me, it seemed to appear out of nowhere. Or maybe about the time when Twitter hitched a ride on the pop-culture choo-choo train. Since then, the hashtag shortened even the broadest subjects to ... hashtags. #seriousphilosophyhere

First appearance of the hashtag

touch tone phone dial

Before the hashtag phraseology, the # symbol first appeared in 1961, on old school landline phone dials, when touch tone dialing on phones was the latest technology. Originally, engineers at Bell Labs (a phone company) toured the country to ask people how they interact with phones. They wanted to make sure they created enough buttons on the touch tone phone to cover every interaction. After their tour, these engineers incorporated the * and the # symbols on phones. Bell Labs later named the symbol “Octothorpe” after Native American athlete Jim Thorpe.

The # symbol was also commonly referred to as a number sign because it appeared before the number two on pencils. Hence, the number two pencil that we all scribbled notes with in gradeschool. Another common name for the number sign is pound. It was coined a pound sign because the symbol was written down next to the weight of an item.

Internet fast lane


When the internet boom of the 1990s started, chat groups, chat rooms, and chatting in general naturally became the most prevalent thing for users to participate in. Shortly therafter, chat room users would use the # symbol directly before a word to categorize the conversation surrounding it into a specific group. For example, if a group of people chatted about lip gloss, they would use #lipgloss to make the conversation more visible in later searches.

Chris Messina

So, the hashtag trend was born on August 23, 2007, when Chris Messina tweeted to his followers, “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”Because of the hashtag’s simplicity within searches, the thought process, action, linguistics, and everything else surrounding the # grew organically into a worldwide phenomenon. Since that day over nine years ago, hashtags have been used to shorten such complicated ideas as #blacklivesmatter, #ff (follow Friday), #Oscars, #Harambe - and millions more. Hashtags have covered everything from politics to fashion, and everything else between.

Next time you use the hashtag, take a minute to ponder the minutia that went into this word and, now, lifestyle. Learn more about everyday technology in the TCC blog, where we cover new apps, the most popular devices, and how-to’s. If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, stop by your local TCC store. It’s our pleasure to help you.

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