When was the last time you were without the little bundle of electronics and circuitry in your pocket? If you can’t remember, you’re not alone. Ofcom statistics from 2013 indicate that 92% of people in the UK own a mobile phone, whilst only 84% have a landline, meaning the not-so-humble mobile has overtaken the classic standard of communication. The average smartphone user checks their phone 110 times a day, anywhere between four and nine times an hour, with some studies suggesting the figure is closer to 150 times a day,
The beginnings of the mobile, however, stretch back further than you might expect, depending on how you define ‘mobile’. As early as the 1940s, telephones were available as integrated systems within cars, and the official inauguration of mobile service was on the 17th of June, 1946 in St Louis, Missouri. Initially, mobile signals were transmitted over extremely limited, proprietary networks, making cross-compatibility almost impossible, and often the number of simultaneous calls a network could support was in single digits.
Mobiles have, of course, come a long way since their inception. The first working mobile cellular phone was demonstrated by John F. Mitchell and Dr Martin Cooper in 1973, with a handset that weighed just over four and a half pounds. It wasn’t until over ten years later that mobiles would become commercially available with the 1984 release of the Motorola DynaTAC (Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage) 8000X. The DynaTAC 8000X offered an impressive thirty minutes of talk time, with eight hours standby, and was priced at $3,995 on first release.
In the thirty years between 1984 and 2014 mobile phone subscriptions have grown to over seven billion, more than the population of the planet. Mobiles have found their way into every strata of society, from the high-end smartphones that populate our cities, to the simpler but equally vital handsets available in developing countries – it is even possible to purchase ‘kosher phones’, handsets that have been approved by rabbis for use by Orthodox Jews.
Despite an unwieldy start, the mobile phone has become an essential part of modern life, connecting everyone, everywhere, all the time. Speaking of which, when was the last time you checked your phone?