Thursday, 4 April 2013

Happy 40th Birthday to the 'Brick'.

If your mobile phone mysteriously orders a Maserati this week, or rashly runs off with a much younger model, it could possibly point to a mid-life crisis brought on by its 40th birthday.

The very first ‘cellphone’ call was made four decades ago by senior Motorola engineer Martin Cooper to Dr Joel S. Engel, an employee of rival telecoms giant AT&T. Although pipped at the post by his pioneering counterpart, Dr Engel probably then made the second most important discovery of the day, that you can’t slam the phone down on a mobile call, to any real degree of satisfaction anyway, without breaking it. Cooper’s prototype, the catchily titled DynaTAC, was mildly more convenient than actually carrying a phonebox around with you, but weighing in at over a kilogram, not significantly lighter. 

Interviewed on Sky News, Mr Cooper said the phone was over nine inches long, and its meagre 20 minutes talk time was actually quite sufficient, because you couldn’t hold that brick up to your ear for much longer anyway. When asked for his reaction to the development of the so-called smartphone, interestingly, he said he was rather disappointed. “We are trying to build a devise that is all things for all people,” he said, “that does not allow you to do any of them really well.” As one who has never found a better way to send a number from my contacts list in a text message, other than balancing the phone precariously on my knee and scribbling the number on my hand first, I concur. That is the most frustrating telecommunications experience I have ever had, apart from the day I bought a Blackberry, and the 712 days afterwards when I had to use it.

The global population is currently believed to be around seven billion, and the International Telecommunications Union now estimates that six billion have a mobile phone. In the UK alone some 92% of us have one, and the rest probably just left theirs in their other trousers. Disappointing or otherwise, the mobile phone is now an assumed appendage to our daily faculties. But the man who made that initial pioneering call now cautions that we mould our lives around our mobiles, rather than designing them to meet our needs. “I am looking forward to big improvements in the future”, Cooper says, “mostly aimed at customising phones to people, making the phone your slave, instead of you being a slave to the phone.”      

I would think of a deeply salient point to end on, probably suggesting the modern mobile offers those with nothing positive to say, ever increasing mediums to do so, I would, but my phone’s ringing…   

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