Back in the day, before cars could drive themselves and phones could send stickers and animations, a Japanese phone company released a set of 176 emojis.
The year was 1999 and the tiny 12-by-12 pixel designs—smiley faces, hearts of the intact and broken variety, cats, and so on—were mainly popular in Japan. In 2010, Unicode Consortium, which now controls emoji standards, translated the emoji into the Unicode standard, which means that a person in France, for example, can send an emoji to a person in the U.S. and it will look the same.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art says it has acquired original set of 176 emojis. They were a gift to the museum from the phone company, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone.