I first started using the Internet in 1986, my freshman year in college. Al Gore had not invented it yet, so I guess this was a prototype.
Anyhow, this Internet wasn't something that was available on your PC that would allow you to view web sites and see porn movies or the latest news video. In fact, this Internet bore little resemblance to what we commonly think of today. It was really little more than a gentleman's (and -woman's) agreement between science facilities, universities and military bases (and telecommunication companies, which primarily was AT&T at the time) to establish a commonly accepted method (we call them protocols) of taking messages and instructions and converting them into simple little packets of information that could be sent from facility to facility to share information and otherwise keep in touch.
Email and news boards were pretty much the primary method of people communication, and there were ways to access files like kermit, ftp, telnet (which also allowed you to control the machine you were connected to).
About the time I started school, a recent experiment had been in play for some few years called "Internet Relay Chat" (IRC). Like email, IRC allowed you to send messages to other people. But unlike email, IRC was real-time, and with multiple people. You would sign in with a name of your choise, you could choose different "channels", and any message you typed would only be seen by others on that same channel, and you could direct private messages to specific people.
If this is familiar, it should be. It was the pre-cursor to what we now think of as Instant Messaging.
But I digress.
This is when I was introduced to "emoticons", though I don't think most people refered to them by name, and I'm not even certain they were even named that at all by this time.
There were the still-used icons :-) ;-) 8-) (and their frowny versions as well). There were several other variations, too, but there were several others that had little to do with faces.
Being a lonely geek who found that gals actually talked to him on IRC, there were all sorts of flirting symbols that could be used, too! Like roses: @}---,----'------.
There were others, too, but I can't think of them. Perhaps you know of some?
To whit, here is the story of the origin of the use of tyographical symbols to cheat out the nuances of communication:
Smiley Lore :-)