Mobile Archaeology: From the brick to the iPhone, these are the phones that shaped our lives | science and technology
Half a century ago, on April 3, 1973, the first cell phone call was made. Martin Cooper, then Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer of Motorola, called Joel Engel, a researcher at Bell Labs, using a DynaTAC 8000x, the first real cell phone in history. Until then, cell phones tended to be portable devices that came with a carrying case; Only top managers and politicians used them and could only make calls, not receive them. Developed by Motorola, the 2.5 pound DynaTAC could be held in one hand and offered up to an hour of use after a 10 hour charge.
Fifty years later, those bulky devices from the prehistory of cell phones have been replaced by flat, shiny, and sophisticated devices that fit in your pocket and are rarely used to make calls. Today we call them smartphones and they are computers, music players, GPS devices, notebooks and cameras. It’s the first thing you see when you wake up (since you’re probably using it as an alarm clock) and the last thing you see before you fall asleep while scrolling through an endless Instagram feed. There’s even a phobia of its own: nomophobia, the irrational fear of not having a cell phone.
“Because it’s such a commonplace thing, we’re hardly aware of how much it’s evolved,” says Curro Quevedo Bueno, a cellphone collector and expert. Of course, we like to remember which brand our first phone was from. Or when there were color screens. Or when we discovered polyphonic ringtones. The evolutionary scale of the cell phone is part of the history of technology, but also a sentimental portrayal of our past.
Nokia Mobira Cityman (1987). The brick
In Finland, where Nokia is headquartered, it became known as “Gorba” because Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union, used it to make a call from Helsinki to Moscow in 1989. It was the first Nokia phone to come without a carrying case. It weighed about 1.7 pounds and offered tech innovations like a backlit screen and the ability to control the volume of the ringer. Due to its high price, it was mainly used by top executives. It even appeared in movies like Wall Street.
Nokia Mobira Cityman (1987) Mirta Rojo Nokia 3310 (2000). The indestructible
At the beginning of the century it was said that this phone was completely unbreakable. You could drop it, get it wet, hit it repeatedly and it would keep working. It was one of the first Nokias to be made available to the general public. In the year of the start of sales, the market was only fought over by two brands: Motorola and Nokia. Ericsson, Sony and LG tried to capture a part of this market, but it was only a fraction. The 3310 was so popular that 126 million units were sold worldwide. His legacy ended with the launch of the Nokia 1100, the best-selling phone in history with 250 million units shipped (unsurpassed by any other phone). The 3310 wasn’t just for making phone calls: it had a calculator, a stopwatch and four games, including the popular Snake II. It shaped a generation; In 2017 a renewed version for nostalgics was released.
Nokia 310 (2000). Mirta Rojo Motorola V3 (2004). the razr
Although this type of phone was popularly known as a clamshell, it was sold under the name Razr (pronounced “Razor”). In 2004, this aluminum cell phone from Motorola was the thinnest cell phone on the market. It was so popular that it even appeared in a Beyoncé video, the series How I Met Your Mother, and the movie The Devil Wears Prada (Miranda had one). The pink Barbie was Paris Hilton’s favorite gadget.
Motorola V3 (2004). Mirta Rojo Blackberry Curve 8520 (2009). Made to write
Originally developed as a high-end phone for executives and business people, the BlackBerry achieved a global market share of 3% in 2011. What made the device attractive was its 35-key QWERTY keyboard. Anyone who has tried it knows that no one has ever built a more comfortable mobile phone for writing. Its massive usage and the devotion that users showed towards their BlackBerry led to a new term: CrackBerry. It was so addicting. What started as an idea for a cell phone eventually evolved into a handheld computer. Among the most loyal users were Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian and Angela Merkel. Despite its popularity, the brand failed to adapt to the changing times and closed permanently on January 4, 2022.
BlackBerry Curve 8520 (2009).Mirta RojoiPhone (2007). The one who changed everything
On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs completely changed the game with the first iPhone, a revolutionary all-touchscreen device. This global phenomenon has transformed the mobile phone into the GPS device, the camera, the MP3 player and essentially man’s best friend.
iPhone 4 (2010).Mirta RojoSamsung Galaxy SIII (2012). Take part in the competition
While Nokia and Motorola fought for the market in the 1990s, Apple and Samsung fought in 2012. You were either an Android human or an iPhone human. The answer to the iPhone came from South Korea. The Galaxy SIII wasn’t the first Galaxy, but it was the only one known as the “iPhone Killer”. It was the most successful Android device of its time, selling 50 million units worldwide in just nine months. The touchscreen was no longer Apple’s purview.
Samsung Galaxy III (2012).Mirta RojoSamsung Z Flip3 (2021). The folding phone
According to Quevedo Bueno, the technological revolution that we saw in the 1980s and 1990s has stalled since the introduction of the iPhone and all other smartphones. “Folding phones differ from the rest because they have flexible screens, something we hadn’t seen before,” he points out. Cameras and batteries keep getting better, but when it comes to innovation, we’re stuck.
Samsung Z Flip3 (2021).Mirta Rojo
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