Here is a story that is a little bit :-P but really mostly :-(
It starts in 2005, when Jonathan Nelson applied for a patent for an "emoticon input method and apparatus." The apparatus in question would allow a user of a "communication device" (i.e., a cell phone) to pick an emoticon via a specific button -- or via, in the language of the patent, "the provision of emoticon input logic."
"It is known that for many users, their email and instant messaging communications ... often involve the use of emoticons, such as the 'smiling face' or the 'sad face,'" the application notes. "However, few email of instant messaging applications offer any assistance to a user to enter and use emoticons in their communications." Furthermore,
regardless whether the character sequence is conventional or unconventional, a user typically has to enter the emoticon forming characters one at a time. This disadvantage is amplified in situations where the user is conducting the textual or non-verbal communication using a communication device having limited input facilities, such as wireless mobile phones. Accordingly, facilities that are more user friendly in assisting a user to employ emoticons on their communications, especially on communication devices with limited input facilities, such as wireless mobile phones, are desired.
Here's the application's rendering: