Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Invention and representation
The smiley face, a yellow button with a smile and two dots representing eyes, was invented by Harvey Ball in 1963 for a Worcester, Massachusetts based insurance firm State Mutual Life Assurance. Though there was an attempt to trademark the image, it fell into the public domain before that could be accomplished.
The graphic was popularized in the early 1970s by a pair of brothers, Murray and Bernard Spain, who seized upon it in a campaign to sell novelty items. The two produced buttons as well as coffee mugs, t-shirts, bumper stickers and many other items emblazoned with the symbol and the phrase "Have a happy day" (devised by Murray). By 1972 there were an estimated 50 million happy face buttons throughout the U.S., at which point the fad began to subside.
The smiley was one of the main icons adopted by the acid house dance music culture that emerged in the early 1990s. Especially in the UK, the logo was especially associated in the dance culture underground with the drug Ecstasy.
There have been variations such as reversing the mouth shape to get a sad face. The symbol has been satirized with a smile and three dots (a mutant), and has been reborn as the image of the Microsoft Bob software and Asda & Wal-Mart's "Rolling Back Prices" campaign.
The smiley has become a staple of Internet culture, with animated GIF and other image representations, as well as the ubiquitous text-based emoticon, " :) ". The smiley has been used for the printable version of characters 1 and 2 (one "black," the other "white") on the default font on the IBM PC and successor compatible machines, though modern fonts for graphical user interfaces often don't include those characters. The Unicode point 9786 (☺) is a smiley.
In May 2002, Luke Helder, a midwestern pipe-bomber, tried to replicate a smiley face in his pattern of pipe bombs. His first 16 bombs formed circles, the first in Nebraska and the second on the border between Illinois and Iowa. Those bombs completed the eyes. Two other bombs in Texas and Colorado were apparently the beginnings of the smile. However, he was captured before he completed it.
Smileys in Popular Entertainment
- The film Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994) remembered the Smiley with a humorous reference.
- The film Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999) has a brief "smiley bombing" scene on the side of an office building. A similar face previously appeared in the Fight Club novel.
- The yellow smiley is a recurring theme in the comic book series Watchmen (Alan Moore & David Gibbons , 1986). The smiley is used as an insignia by the character named "The Comedian." An image of a smiley face with a streak of red (originally blood) across it both begins and closes the series, and appears on the cover of the graphic novel reprint.
- The poster for the 2001 film Evolution featured the aforementioned three-eyed mutant smiley.
- The first-person shooter game MIDI Maze, 1987 (for the Atari ST) and its followup Faceball 2000 (for various handhelds and consoles) exclusively used 3D-rendered smileys of various shapes, expressions, and colors as its players and enemies.
- In Timescape , a seventh-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard laughed hysterically at a smiley he carved in a cloud of smoke that was frozen in time. The cloud was a product of a warp core explosion. He was "facing a warp core breach"!
- "Smiley" is the nickname of Miles Edward O'Brien in a parallel universe, given him by Cpt. Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
- "Smiley" is also the nickname of British guitarist and comedian, Craig Barton .
- In the comic book series Transmetropolitan the smiley with three eyes logo features as the symbol of the Transient Movement, a group of humans in the process of morphing their DNA with that of aliens. Later used as a symbol of the series itself. It was in Transmetropolitan years before the movie Evolution used a similar smiley in promotions.
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