It's Been 10 Years Since the Pound Sign Was Reinvented

It's Been 10 Years Since the Pound Sign Was Reinvented

I know that the solar eclipse on Monday made you feel young again. Maybe it made you feel energetic, inquisitive, motivated to keep exploring. But by now those effects have surely started to wear off, and I have some bad news for you. You’re getting old. How do I know that? Because the hashtag just turned 10.

Even though I’m just starting to hit thirty, there are already lots of things that make me feel old. Reminiscing about blowing into N64 cartridges. Knowing what a payphone is. Kids at the bar who get let in with IDs that say 1996. The fact that "Goodnight Moon" is now "Goodnight iPad." Now I can add the hashtag to that list.

In 2007, Chris Messina, a social technology expert, came up with the idea for using the # (pound) sign on Twitter. His idea kind of stuck. Now, you can’t really be any kind of successful on social media without using hashtags. They let us aggregate ideas and band together behind causes. They allow us to tag photos with ideas and keywords that help them be found by our viewers. I’m not sure there’s another way that would have been as effective as taking one of the most recognizable but little-used symbols on our already existing keyboards and turning it into such a powerful tool with nothing more than a tweet.

If you want to learn more about using hashtags, check out these articles.

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8 Comments

Anonymous's picture

I have kids older than you. I listened to 8-tracks and albums before those new-fangled cassettes came out. I watched the first moon landing...live. I saw President Kennedy get shot on our Black and White television, the day after it happened.
So, what is it that makes you feel old, again?? :-)

david squire's picture

Indeed! I remember when it was announced Elvis passed away and my Mom literally pulled over and cried. My very first music system was an 8 track player with three 8 tracks to get me started... I remember when my Dad's car (which also had an 8 track player) was so big I could lay down in the back seat, fully stretched out while we waited in line for gas during the "gas crisis". Then there was the time Channel 5 news was down the street interviewing people in the neighborhood because we all had yellow ribbons tied around our trees- symbolic support for the hostages in Iran when Carter was President... My brother comes running in, "the news is down the street, let's go get on t.v.!" We got in trouble because our parents were embarrassed by our behavior on live t.v...

Anonymous's picture

I was driving through Texas one day during the gas crisis and saw them burning a lot of crude oil. :-/

Iron Butterfly was the first 8-track that I bought.

Anonymous's picture

Really interesting. Thanks!

Spy Black's picture

"I’m not sure there’s another way that would have been as effective as taking one of the most recognizable but little-used symbols on our already existing keyboards and turning it into such a powerful tool with nothing more than a tweet.

Actually I wished they would have used something more obscure, as the pound sign was not remotely as little used as you suggest. It's REALLY annoying to see the pound sign do what it does now. I know it's readily on the keyboard, but even ^ would have been better I think. Looking at the character map, there are symbols fairly readily available that would have worked.

Anonymous's picture

The caret is too easily overlooked. They wanted something that would stand out. In any case, while I agree the pound sign gets a bit of use, I can't imagine anyone being confused by this use although, to be honest, I've never even seen twitter, Instagram, or any of those kinds of things. Perhaps it's as bad as you suggest.