The early mobile phone looked a lot like a breeze block, except it was larger and heavier. The Motorola DynaTAC, as wielded by Michael Douglas in Wall Street, is barely mobile by modern standards, and certainly wouldn’t fit comfortably in the palm of the many young children who own phones today.
The large, DynaTAC style of phones stayed the de facto mobile in the business world for a good number of years and was seen as something as a status and power symbol. However, things were going to have to change if mobile phones were going to really catch on in everyday life.
The image of the mobile phone began to change with the release of the Motorola MicroTAC 9800X in 1989. Not only was this new model considerably smaller and lighter than the giant DynaTAC, it featured an incredible flip down mouthpiece. This turned out to be revolutionary function and it became the standard design for years to come.
In 1992, Motorola again brought the world another amazing new leap forward in mobile phone technology as they released the fully digital Motorola International 3200, the first of its kind.
While the technology of phones was moving on, the phones themselves remained in the hands of the suits. What was needed to help mobile phones move more into the wider consumer market was a mass produced model that was affordable to all. This is exactly what it got with the Nokia 1011.
This model, although ugly and simple showed everyone in the industry what a money spinner a phone could be and it was the catalyst for the technological advancements that continue to this day.
1993 came the world’s first PDA/mobile phone combo in the odd shape of the BellSouth/IBM Simon Personal Communicator, then, in 1996, the world’s first display screen featured on a mobile with the Motorola StarTAC.
These incremental advancements don’t seem like much now but they helped people realise the true potential of the phone. Although some functions have turned out to be fads, such as the type of WAP browser seen on the Nokia 7110, others have expanded the horizon and possibilities of modern mobiles.
Today, the mobile is more than a phone and they have functions, like touch screen, that people could have hardly imagined when the mobile was first developed. However, now, if you told people that the next version of the iPhone comes with a function for toasting bread, they’d probably believe you.
Phones these days do almost everything. You can email on them, keep in contact with friends, play games and even tell the time. However, it wasn’t always like this and if you tried to show someone in the eighties a smart phone from today, they’d probably be more likely to pass it over to the authorities thinking it was an alien robot rather than to try to call someone on it. Yet fast forward 30 years and shops nowadays sell Samsung galaxy s2 phones like it’s the most normal thing in the world. To get where we are now however, the mobile phone has had to go through massive changes.
Michael Edmondstone is a freelance writer, specialising in technology and personal finance.