Technology has come a long way in the last 30 years.Â There once was a time when everyone who owned a phone had a rotary phone because the idea of buttons was so insane no one dared mention it aloud.Â But eventually things changed, buttons were allowed into regular society and then, in 1974, someone made good on the crazy idea to make a phone callâ€¦from outside.
Humble, yet ugly beginnings
Motorolaâ€™s DynaTAC became the first commercially available cell phone in 1983 and it was pretty glorious as phones went.Â It weighed about 2 lbs and was 10 inches high, making it larger than some Chihuahuas.Â Odds are if you showed it to a kid today theyâ€™d assume it was some kind of old timer walkie-talkie.
Apparently R&D on the phone took 15 years and over $100 million went into its development, which may have seemed crazy at the time, but given the over 4 billion mobile phones in use today seems to have paid off.
The phone had a battery life of 30 minutes of talk time and cost about $4,000.Â You could buy a quick charge unit that would charge the phone in an hour at the risk of burning your hand on the battery when it was ready to go, or go with the standard charge that took a brisk ten hours, which probably made you use that half hour of charge it provided very sparingly.Â Despite all this, the phone caught on.
Nokia introduced the Mobira not long after, another beastly machine but the price had considerably dropped in just a few years as this commercial shows.Â A mere $600?Â Weâ€™ll take two.
As time went on, of course, they managed to make cell phone battery life last even longer by adding a giant battery case to the phone, letting you take it anywhere.Â Need to make a call on the boat?Â In the park?Â No problem with the affordable, transportable cellular phone, just make sure you take your hernia medication if youâ€™re out for the whole day, or get yourself a back brace before you try to lug this thing from the late 80â€™s, early 90â€™s around.Â On the plus side, from a distance it probably scared people who thought you were testing for radiation with your portable Geiger counter.
It wasnâ€™t long after the giant saddle bag phone that things really began to take off for mobile phone technology.Â The Nokia 101 marked the first candy bar phone on the market.Â Whatâ€™s a candy bar phone?Â A phone that kinda looks like a candy bar.Â The standard for ages, it was just a simple, fairly easy to grip handset without a lot of frills.Â Look at the picture and try to imagine it covered in chocolate.Â You can still get phones like this today, but you will be mocked by trendy friends and coworkers with their Blackberries and iPhones.
Enter the candy bar phone
The Nokia 101 was also the first GSM phone, the first to use the Global System for Mobile Communications, the digital standard for making calls on the go and the most popular transmission technology in the world today, still leaps and bounds ahead of messenger pigeons and smoke signals.Â In less than a decade cellular phones hard turned from bricks with antennae into squat TV remote controls with antennae.
As the 80â€™s drew to a close, the cell phone market was into full swing as companies tried to market cell phones as a one-way ticket to party town.Â The basic idea was that if you didnâ€™t have a cell phone, you were ruining your own life and the lives of those you care about.Â Look at the fun you can have with a cell phone!
In 1993, in Finland, operating on a 2G network, the first person-to-person SMS text message was sent.Â The first computer to cell text had been sent just one year earlier with the less than earth-shattering message â€œMerry Christmas.â€
By the mid-90sâ€™s Motorola changed the landscape again by introducing the flip phone.Â A simple hinge allowed your phone to get even smaller when not in use and make everyone look like Captain Kirk, flipping and unflipping to chat on a whim.Â As this commercial shows, it didnâ€™t matter if you were on the beach, at a restaurant or just barely staving off road-rage, a flip phone was the tool for you.
The most noticeable advantage of the flip phone was that you could slip it into a pocket when you werenâ€™t using it.Â Sure, you could do that with the candy bar phones, you just risk getting the buttons all gummed up with pocket lint and assorted other dusty crap that lives in your pants.
When phones got smarter
Now that phones were looking smart, they had to actually be smart.Â So came the birth of the smart phone in 1996.Â Or something that passed for a smartphone, anyway.Â It may not hold up to todayâ€™s standards, but the Nokia 9000 Communicator was an innovator in giving users a flip up display complete with keyboard and 8MB of memory.Â Sure you couldnâ€™t play Frogger on it or check your Facebook, but Facebook hadnâ€™t been invented yet so no one knew what they were missing.
The same year, in Japan, cell phone users finally got the option of customizable ring tones.Â No longer would you be forced to actually hear the foolish sound of a phone ringing, or even a pre-programmed midi file that sounded vaguely like a 50â€™s era robot playing Beethoven on a keyboard.Â You could finally live your dream and have AC/DC alert you to all future calls.Â By 1998, the Finnish service Harmonium was offering downloadable ringtones for users.
Along with the advent of the smartphone, the other great leap forward in mobile technology came in 2000, with the first camera phone, Sharp’s J-SH04.Â And it wasnâ€™t necessarily the inclusion of the camera that made this such an important step in the history of phones, it was the inclusion of something.Â Phones had evolved.
Today, social networking sites are flooded with self-portraits taken with a cell phone.Â Cell phone cameras have caught news happening in real time.Â While smartphones had multiple functions, much of it was still rooted in the function of communication.Â Cameras, on the other hand, made the phone part of the phone an ancillary tool.
Trendy music player
In concert with cameras making the actual phone part of phones take a back seat, 2000 also saw the release of the Samsung UpRoar, the first MP3 phone.Â Now you didnâ€™t even need to be talking to another person to ignore those around you, you could just listen to music and make the world go away.
Building on what the smartphones had given the world, Palm produced its Treo in 2001 and RIM produced its first mobile phone Blackberry in 2002.Â Suddenly the world was full of people too busy to look you in the eye because theyâ€™re rattling out emails or checking their calendar.Â This marked the birth of a cell phone as a more important part of a social gathering than actual people, a trend that continues to this very day.
Not long afterwards the need for phones to look cooler than anything else you could possibly even dream of owning took hold.Â The RAZR phone, the iPhone, the Sidekick, since the mid 90â€™s cell phone esthetics have been as important, if not more important, than function.Â Lord knows you donâ€™t want to be the guy with that brick anymore.
Apple changes the game
Speaking of iPhones, Apple changed the landscape again in 2007.Â Now any phone worth its salt thatâ€™s also just a very small computer in your pocket needs a user-friendly interface with touch screen capability and more frivolous apps than you can shake a stick at.Â Why?Â Why not?Â The technology exists and so does the desire.
Now that phones have full internet connectivity and multimedia capabilities, iPhone and other smart phones afford users web surfing capabilities and why not watch a movie while youâ€™re at it?Â Sure, the screen is small but for long trips abroad or really boring meetings, itâ€™s hard to argue with the appealing distraction 3G phones provide.
Phones of the present feature needless applications, full keyboards or at least virtual ones, high resolution cameras, trackballs, extended battery life, sleek design and even multi-tasking capabilities, HD video recording and about a billion other things as dozens of companies vie for a cut of the multi-billion dollar industry.
And it all came from a massive brick phone in the 1980â€™s.