Passage: N.Y. museum acquires first emoji

It happened this past week ... a huge new honor for those tiny cell phone pictographs.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art announced Wednesday it has acquired the original 176 emoji, first introduced by Japan’s national phone company in 1999.

A combination of the Japanese words for “picture” and “character,” the original emoji were designed to communicate useful information to small cell phone screens in the form of an image just twelve pixels square.

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New York’s Museum of Modern Art announced this week it has acquired the original cell phone pictographs, developed under the supervision of Shigetaka Kurita, and introduced by Japan’s national phone company in 1999.

Museum of Modern Art

Some of those original emoji, such as the images for weather and numbers, are self-explanatory. Others are somewhat more obscure.

In announcing its acquisition, the museum says in part: “Emoji tap into a long tradition of expressive and visual language. Images and patterns have been incorporated within text since antiquity.”

And well into our own time.

Largely confined to Japan at first, emoji jumped to cell phones around the world starting in 2010.

Far more complex and elaborate than those first simple images, standardized emoji now number close to 2,000.

And -- appropriately enough for this time of year -- according to the website emojipedia.org, the fifth most-popular emoji is -- what else? -- the jack-o-lantern.