NEW YORK, N.Y. – Back in the day, before cars could drive themselves and phones could send stickers and animations, a Japanese phone company released a set of 176 emojis.
The year was 1999 and the tiny 12-by-12 pixel designs — smiley faces, hearts of the intact and broken variety, cats, and so on — were mainly popular in Japan. In 2010, Unicode Consortium, which now controls emoji standards, translated the emoji into the Unicode standard, which means that a person in France, for example, can send an emoji to a person in the U.S. and it will look the same.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art says it has acquired original set of 176 emojis. They were a gift to the museum from the phone company, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone.