From Digg:

Sept. 19, 1982: Can’t You Take a Joke? 🙂

wired.com — With a short post to a computer-science department bulletin board at Carnegie Mellon University, on September 19, 1982 at 11:44 AM, Scott Fahlman became the acknowledged originator of the ASCII-based emoticon.

Oh, and to piggyback on this meme, I recently discovered this program that will let you draw pictures in ASCII art.  You use it like a regular drawing program, except it draws with ASCII characters, and can save the pictures as text files.

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