The humble text message may seem like one of the more mundane functions that your handset performs nowadays, and one that is quickly becoming outdated in the time of messaging apps like WhatsApp. Having been regularly used to make arrangements for nights out and to forward jokes amongst friends, the text message has, on occasion, gone further and proved to be a life-saving tool for people in need.
Climber in danger
Way back in 2001 a climber who had become stranded in Snowdonia was rescued by an RAF helicopter when the flight crew used a text message to find him. After bad weather had prevented the helicopter’s pilots from finding the man, they decided to try his phone number to reach him.
With little network coverage a call wouldn’t go through, so the crew sent a text instead, to which the climber replied, guiding the helicopter to where he lay.
In 2008 David Nott, a British surgeon volunteering with medical charity MSF in DR Congo used text messages to perform a life saving operation on a 16 year old boy. Unsure of exactly how to go about the complicated and rarely-performed procedure, he texted his colleagues in the UK who replied with step-by-step instructions.
The idea of sending a text when there is very little signal cropped up again in 2011, when a fishing boat carrying four men began to take on water off the Texas coast. After sealing his handset in a plastic bag to keep the water out, one of the men texted the US Coast Guard, who promptly sent out a boat to rescue all on board.
Lastly, a similar situation occurred in 2010 when British Sailor Paul Mountjoy was sailing alone between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. His 45-foot yacht lost all steering controls, leaving him in danger.
With little coverage, Mountjoy texted his father back in Britain, who contacted the UK Coastguard. They in turn got in touch with their Dominican counterparts, who rescued the stranded sailor in time.
As well as saving lives, texts have also played a part in history on occasion. Take a look at our list of the most famous text messages ever sent.