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Scott Fahlman

Scott Elliott Fahlman
Photo of Scott Elliott Fahlman
Born (1948-03-21) 21 March 1948
United States
Fields Natural language processing, Computer Science
Institutions CMU
Alma mater MIT
Doctoral advisor Gerald Jay Sussman
Patrick Winston
Doctoral students Donald Cohen
David B. McDonald
David S. Touretzky
Skef Wholey
Justin Boyan
Michael Witbrock
Alicia Tribble Sagae

Scott Elliott Fahlman (born March 21, 1948) is a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University. He is notable for early work on automated planning in a blocks world, on semantic networks, on neural networks (and, in particular, the cascade correlation algorithm), on the Dylan programming language, and on Common Lisp (in particular CMU Common Lisp and he was one of the founders of Lucid Inc.). During the period when it was standardized, he was recognized as "the leader of Common Lisp."[1] Recently, Fahlman has been engaged in constructing a knowledge base, "Scone", based in part on his thesis work on the NETL Semantic Network.[2]

Fahlman was born in Medina, Ohio, U.S.. He received his bachelor's degree and master's degree in 1973 from MIT, and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1977. His thesis advisors were Gerald Sussman and Patrick Winston. He is a fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence.

Fahlman acted as thesis advisor for Donald Cohen, David B. McDonald, David S. Touretzky, Skef Wholey, Justin Boyan, Michael Witbrock, and Alicia Tribble Sagae.

From May 1996 to July 2000, Fahlman directed the Justsystem Pittsburgh Research Center.


  • Emoticons 1
  • Smiley Award 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Fahlman is credited with originating the first smiley emoticon,[3][4][5] which he thought would help people on a message board at Carnegie Mellon to distinguish serious posts from jokes. He proposed the use of :-) and :-( for this purpose, and the symbols caught on. The original message from which these symbols originated was posted on September 19, 1982. The message was recovered by Jeff Baird on September 10, 2002[6] and is quoted:

19-Sep-82 11:44    Scott E  Fahlman             :-)
From: Scott E  Fahlman 

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways.  Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends.  For this, use


Though credited with originating the smiley emoticons, he was not the first emoticon user; a similar marker appeared in an article of Reader's Digest in May 1967.[7] In an interview printed in the New York Times in 1969, Vladimir Nabokov noted, "I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile — some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket."[8]

Smiley Award

In the fall of 2007, Fahlman and his colleagues created a student contest to foster innovation in technology-assisted person–person communication.[9]


  1. ^ Gabriel, Richard (1996), Patterns of Software (PDF), Oxford University Press, p. 183 
  2. ^ "The Scone Knowledge-Base Project". Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science. Retrieved 27 October 2013. Scone is a high-performance, open-source knowledge-base (KB) system intended for use as a component in many different software applications. 
  3. ^ Business Week Online, April 23, 2001
  4. ^ Scott Fahlman's Smiley Lore page, containing his version of the history, accessed Sept. 19, 2007
  5. ^ :-) turns 25,  
  6. ^ Fahlman's original message Retrieved February 19, 2009.
  7. ^ Urban Legends Reference Pages: Emoticon (Smiley) Origin
  8. ^ Nabokov, Vladimir (1973), Strong Opinions, New York, pp. 133–134,  
  9. ^ "They Said It",  .

External links

  • Personal homepage
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