Sharp looks, killer features and small enough to fit into your jeans pocket-today’s cell phones have it all. But do you know how the earliest cell phones looked and worked like? The one your dad carried back in the day and which resembled more like a heavy duty walky talky? If you have ever wondered how the first cell phones were like and how they evolved into today’s uber gizmos with cool apps and always-on internet connections that we take granted for, you would want to read this article.
Although car phones and other handhelds were available much earlier, the first mainstream cell phones that resemble today’s gadgets came from Motorola. Equipped with antennas, these heavily built phones were prohibitively expensive. One of the first cell phones in the market, the DynaTAC 8000X was introduced in the early 80s and costed upward of $4,000. A few more models came out in the decade, again mostly from Motorola, all having very basic features compared to the current ones. The phones operated on analog systems, call quality was poor and talk time very limited. Cell phones were a luxury for most people.
It was only in the 1990s that the much improved second generation phones came out and with it, the mainstream popularity of these gadgets. Thanks to sophisticated computer chip technology and better design, cell phones became smaller, came in more forms such as clamshells and slides and importantly, had better talk time and call quality. This generation of mobile phones also supported CDMA in addition to GSM systems. The late 90s also ushered in the era of PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) and the Nokia Communicator series became the choice phone for corporate executives. Display screens became larger, features such as bluetooth and GPS were introduced and better games and music capabilities were rolled out. The cell-phone had become an indispensable part of our daily lives. So was it all? Not yet, as the new millennium gave a complete makeover to how we used to view cell phones!
The advent of 3G or the third generation networks enabled cell phones to be used as ‘smart’ devices with computing capabilities, touch sensors and a plethora of never before features. The Blackberries and iPhones changed the way we used a phone for work and play. Also out came hundreds and thousands of apps available both for iPhone and Android-based devices that further enhanced the functionality of a cell phone. With in-built cameras that are as good as any Point and Shoot, media players that can compare with any external entertainment device and good processing power to seamlessly access the internet, the cell phone has now become an all-in-one device that is slowing making other portable gadgets redundant.
That’s the story of the cell phone for you-from its humble beginnings as a brick-like, phone gadget to a sleek and highly sophisticated must-have device that we literally work, play, eat and sleep with. Hope this article has helped you understand and appreciate its history and evolution.