Can You Hear Me Now? A brief history of cell phones.

You have one. In fact, you can’t remember life without it. Everybody you know has one in their pocket right now, including your old granny (bless her wrinkled heart). They seem glued to it constantly, and it’s used for so much more than originally intended. That’s right. We’re talking about your cell phone.

Cellular phones have become a one-stop tech toy for all of your tweeting, Facebooking, shopping, texting, game-playing, picture-taking, web-browsing, score-checking everything-else-doing needs. Oh, and you can make phone calls as well. You can pretty much do anything with your smartphone (except cheat at Last Call Trivia…don’t you dare). But how did we get here? What turned that brick-looking thing in your parent’s car into such a sleek companion, so necessary for humans to exist? Let’s take a look.

1973
So call me maybe.

The first handheld mobile phone was developed in 1973 by Motorola, when researcher Martin Cooper phoned a Bell Labs employee. The phone weighed almost two and a half pounds and needed a ten-hour charge for 30 minutes of use. You thought your data plan was crappy.

In 1983 the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x hit the market. It was the first truly mobile telephone, as it was small enough to carry. This phone, featured in the film Wall Street and used by Zack Morris in Saved By The Bell, became a pop culture sensation. And it could be yours for a cool $4,000.

Cell phones remained an elitist luxury item until the mid 1990s, when two phones changed the landscape. The Motorola StarTAC, released in 1996, became the first phone geared toward the masses. Featuring a clamshell design which could fit in your pocket, over 60 million were sold. The Nokia 6110, released in 1997, had a more advanced user menu and longer battery life (and it featured the game Snake…remember Snake?). It also ushered in the wonderful world of text messaging. OMG!

90s snake
Entertainment for hours.

The cell phone integrated more and more features through the late ’90s, with companies like Qualcomm and Ericsson developing phones with full keyboards, color screens, and touchscreen technology. However, truly massive success in ‘smartphone’ technology came from Blackberry. The Blackberry (or ‘crackberry, for those who had one) combined Windows-based tech with social and casual applications. It was the first phone your hands were glued to, and it ruled the early 2000s.

Then 2007 came, and it was game over. Apple introduced the iPhone to great acclaim, with a revolutionary touchscreen. This immediately rendered older phone platforms obsolete. Phones with physical keyboards soon became extinct. People didn’t want to punch a key or use a stylus, they clamored for sleek futurism. And they wanted it to the tune of over 600 million iPhones sold since inception. Android soon followed suit, and now the market is dominated completely by touchscreen devices.

chart
U.S. sales in 2013

Apple and Android also feature a platform supporting thousands of free and paid applications to custom tailor the phone to your lifestyle. What started as an unwieldy brick-like dinosaur has become a pocket-sized necessity, tethered to every facet of our lives.

What was your first cell phone? Is it still in a drawer somewhere in your house? Comment below.

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