Daily Telegraph

Daily Telegraph

14 October 11

The Telegraph
Tracey Moberly
Every text is a digital treasure - I've saved 90,000 of them.
Tracey Moberly writes about her memoir Text-Me-Up! The artist has saved every text message she's received - bar the first one - since 1999.

11:27AM BST 14 Oct 2011

At 10.23am on March 8, 2002 a text message brings in a succession of delayed purring sounds from my overused mobile phone. I immediately open the text message envelope and it reads: "Hello, i need 2 speak 2 u urgently (need a favour) can you call me on 0207 9****** battery is low, ask for Elizabeth + she will pass u on 2 me"

I put down my mug of coffee immediately and ring the number to speak to my close friend who obviously needs my help - I'm hoping he's OK. The number rings as I mentally practise: "Hello ... can I speak to Elizabeth please?" Caught off guard, I'm put though to a voice which says: "Hello. You're through to Buckingham Palace..." I freeze and immediately terminate the call. After the shock of unwittingly being set up to speak to the Queen I laugh at the first really good hoax text message I've received and quickly fire the text off to several friends.

Waking up one dark and dismal morning at 08.07am and opening a message envelope which said: "How u 2 day? The sun carries my love so stand in its glory and let the light show you who u r xx." I danced on air for the rest of the day
On an old phone of my dad's that my mum was using I opened a text message for her, as she doesn't text. Glaring back at me the words: "Its dad." I have no siblings, so this message could only be meant for me - my dad had died two years earlier. The words melted my heart and soul. He had obviously been practising how to text and sent the message to his own phone by mistake when he had been alive.

I have saved every text message (apart from the very first one) that I've ever received since 1999. The appeal and importance of this now commonplace medium never fails to amaze me.

The collection of texts which I have religiously archived over the years forms a unique digital DNA imprint. Although the messages are written by others, this archive has inadvertently recorded a slice of social and cultural history from my own perspective. It situates people in time and place through their words; recalling, in a variety of instants, things which would have otherwise been forgotten. Capturing and positioning everything from the rise of pop stars, artists and politicians to births, deaths and marriages as they were happening, like a snapshot of time framed within a simplified language.

The digital storage of everyday communication is now pervasive, especially with the spread of social media networking sites. The archiving of the throwaway comment or statement is going to be available to the millions of people who contribute to these sites every day. Hopefully some of them will take the time to chronicle the story these messages tell.

Tracey Moberly's book Text-Me-Up! memoir recounts her life and the text messages that documented highlights and low points. You can find out more about the book and Tracey through her website.