Tuesday, October 24, 2006

50th anniversary mobile cellphone

Today seems to be the 50th birthday of the mobile cellphone. Of course the first cellphone can hardly be called a cellphone according to our current definitions or specifications. The first cellphone (by Ericsson) used to carry some 40kg of heavy weight. It must have been some suitcase that can be carried around and be placed in a car. The few cellphone users in those days were found amongst about 100 docters and lawyers around Stockholm and Gotenborg in Sweden. On the one hand because their jobs required to have a mobile communication channel, on the other hand because the mobile phone could only be afforded by the rich and wealthy. Due to the heavy weigh a car was required. Of course there were no GSM networks in those days. Ericsson launched the so called MTA (Mobile Telephony A) in october 1956 which may be considered an ancestor of the GSM network (AFT-4) that was launched in 1994.
I remember early pictures of mobile cellphones, a fine and wealthy looking young guy placing an enormous 'bag' on the hood of his car (a large and probably quite expensive BMW). On a timescale of 50 years it seems only a short period since I started using my first mobile phone. It must have been 1994 or so, quite a big device (a Siemens), with a battery that could be empty within just a few minutes. I was one of the first at my work carrying a mobile phone. I remember colleagues who thought of it as a ridiculous item: "are you that important that people must be able to reach you 24/7?". The early use of my mobile phone was mainly related to calls indicating that the train was delayed or that I was stuck in a traffic jam. It became easy letting people know that you were going to be late. It was appreciated by those who were expecting you for an appointment. Only one or two years later it was almost considered rude if a person did not contact you in case of a delay. Of course we had no SMS, MMS, WAP in those days, not to speak of inbuilt VGA camera's, WiFi, Bluetooth, Mobile Internet, and only a handful of ringtones. Still it was quite satisfactory to have a cellphone, given the state of technology at that time. Today the mobile cellphone (you can hardly consider it a phone in the strict meaning of the word anymore) it has become part of our daily life. In the Netherlands there are more cellphone contracts than inhabitants. It's sure that the number of functions will further increase in the following 50 years. It's already amazing to see all the new technological developments that are currently going on in the far east and which will (partly) reach the consumer in one or two years from now. If you live in South Korea, it is an everyday reality to have always-on superfast Internet -- broadband -- both in your cell phone and in your home. So picking up your cellphone to watch your favorite TV show is already there. Why still have a stand alone DVD player in your car?

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