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Where Do Emojis Come From—And Other Modern-Day Trends Explained

The Q&As that help us to make sense of our world as it evolves. Best enjoyed in a conversation and with ice-cold beer, of course
by Jim Butler and Anthony Teasdale | Oct 5, 2016
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Modern-day tech mysteries can be quite a perplexing matter to discuss, especially with no beer in hand. Sometimes, doing so will remind you a little of your tech-averse boss whose uncanny loyalty to his Nokia 3210 is such terrible waste of old-school charm.

At least, he still bothers to ask questions, a gesture we can all agree will never go out of style. Come to think of it, our inate inquisitiveness has allowed us today to enjoy, embrace, and, sadly, abuse the many benefits of innovation and other man-made wonders that govern even the most mundane facets of our daily lives.

It'll do us good to keep our curiosity at an all time high. As for those who still don't know the answers to the life-changing developments of our time, we give you—and your boss—this fascinating refresher...

Q: Who invented the hashtag, and why it isn’t going away?
The hashtag—or the “pound,” as our brothers from the UK like to call it—is an integral part of how we find topics that interest us online. But it’s only been around since 2007, when web whiz kid Chis Messina used it on Twitter to organize groups for tech conference network BarCamp. In 2007, a friend of Messina’s used the hashtag #sandiegofire during the fire there, and effectively became the news anchor for the blazes in his area—but Twitter didn’t officially adopt it until 2009.

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“Its primary purpose is content discovery,” says Dan Spicer, head of community at social media tool Hootsuite. “It allows people to find relevant content from other people, businesses and brands. And while platforms, especially social networks, will always look at developing new ways of putting content in front of people, they’ll find it difficult to find a more effective way of linking common themes and topics than a hashtag.”

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Q: Why do people ride fixed-gear bikes?
Some people—i.e. our magazine's Acting EIC and Associate Art Director (look them up)—may side-scoff at fellow bikers and their hipster ways, but fixed-gear bikes, or ‘fixies’ are more than just about stylish posturing. Because of their simplicity and practicality, fixies became popular among cycle couriers in the ‘90s. It wasn’t long before the young urban middle class (and modern-day NYC bike messengers a la Joseph Gordon Levitt in Premium Rush) adopted the bikes as part of their identity. Fixies don’t need brakes as they can’t freewheel, stripping cycling back to the basics. Fixed bikes are so ‘real’ that it attracted hipsters who crave authenticity. #Sarcasm.

Q: Why are bullies called online trolls?
Dealing with trolls is the price we pay for the Internet—but why are they called “trolls”? Rather than being related to ugly dwarves under bridges, the word is related to “trawling,” a fishing term that in this context means writing deliberately offensive comments to attract “bites.” The term was first used on pre-Internet network Usenet in the early 1980s. It was recorded with its present meaning in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1992.

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Q: What the hell are gastropubs?
Too many of these fine-food-with-liquor-paring places are creeping up in BGC and Makati, but the term ‘gastropub’ was first coined to describe a dive in London called The Eagle in 1991. Combining the traditional elements of booze with food elevated above Tokwa’t Baboy and Sisig (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The Eagle soon became popular with the wordsmiths that worked nearby at British newspaper The Guardian. And as those journos wrote about it, (and traditional English food came back into fashion), the idea of paying 15 quid for sausage and mash (read: pricey food at an inuman joint) was born.

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Q: Why did Uber get so big?
The sharing economy has enabled people to make money from assets like condos and apartments (Airbnb), general unwanted stuff (OLX), and cars (Uber). Uber’s idea came to Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick when they were trying—and failing—to get a cab in snowy Paris in 2008. Starting life as UberCab in 2010 in San Francisco, the company was immediately successful for two reasons: first, as an app, its mobile nature meant hailing a cab was painless and immediate; second, the responsive “surge” pricing meant drivers could charge more at busy times, bringing more of them on the road. Every journey made brings a cut of the fare to Uber, which means with operations all over the world, the company is now valued at $18.2 billion.

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Q: Where did all those love padlocks in Baclaran Church originate from?
If you’ve walked past Baclaran Church on a Sunday and tsk-ed at the heavily padlocked fence in its grotto, you may have wondered where it all began. The ‘love lock’ trend started in early 20th century Hungary, and is based on a tale of a woman whose soldier husband ran off with another lady. The practice died off, but when it was referenced in the 2006 novel I Want You by Italian author Federico Moccia, couples in cities such as Rome and Paris resurrected it. Now, despite the protestations of city authorities everywhere—they’ve been removed from the Pont des Arts in Paris—bunches of locks continue to blossom throughout the world.

Q: Where do emojis come from?
The first emojis date back to 1999 when Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita devised a set of illustrations for the first mobile Internet network. Influenced by both Manga comics and street signs, they were only used in Japan for years. Then smartphones enabled the “language” to spread all over the world. In 2010, the Unicode Consortium approved a set of globally recognized standardized emojis. When Apple included emojis on iOS, the global takeover was complete.

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Q: How did Beats By Dre become the world’s leading headphone brand?
If the iPod was the ’00s musical accessory, then this decade is defined by Beats headphones (BBD controls nearly 70 percent of the premium headphone market worldwide). The result of a collaboration between record label boss Jimmy Iovine and hip-hop producer Dr. Dre, the brand is the perfect synthesis of tech and pop culture—and so successful that Apple paid $3 billion for it in 2014.

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According to Neil Boorman, author of Bonfire of the Brands, until the arrival of the iPod, only DJs and hi-fi snobs spent money on headphones. But Apple’s cheapo white ear buds led to an everyman demand for quality cans. Enter Beats by Dre.

"The problem was that the major hi-fi brands looked stuffy and forbidding,” says Boorman. “But Beats headphones are branded like lollipops—all bright and accessible. So that’s what everyone went for.” The key to getting Beats’ message across was the use of credible music artists like Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani in the research stage, before recruiting celebrities such as Robin Thicke,, and LeBron James in the marketing campaign.

Says Boorman: “If you send a celebrity down the red carpet holding a product that’s in normal people’s price ranges, they’ll snap it up like it’s the last product on Earth.”

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Q: When did ‘LOL’ become ‘Laugh Out Loud’?
LOL! ROTFL! LELZZZZ. When it comes to expressing joy online, there’s one route everyone follows: But why? It goes back to 1980s Canada when Wayne Pearson, a member of Pre-Internet bulletin board called Viewline, coined the term.

After being on a list of web acronyms in the 1989 newsletter, its use spread. Today, Pearson says, “A friend of mine who went by the name Sprout had said something so funny in the teleconference room that I found myself truly laughing out loud, echoing off the walls. That’s when ‘LOL’ was first used. I always emphasized that it’s meant to be used only if you truly laugh out loud…a smirk, smile, or giggle just won’t cut it.”

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