The evolution of mobile phones

Having coffee and waiting for a call. Once again, boredom proves the mother of great (or merely relatively entertaining) ideas. I am thinking about mobile phones. Fascinating things, aren’t they? I first saw a mobile phone (mobiphone) in the mid-1990s, when it was an expensive piece of equipment owned chiefly by businesspeople. In the popular consciousness in Bulgaria, the mobiphone became firmly associated with the so-called ‘mutri’ ( thugs, mafiosi). The first mini-mobile I saw belonged to a Dutch ship-agent in the summer of 1998. I got my first own mobile phone in the spring of 2000, shortly before graduating from high school and although it didn’t quite change my life in an instant, it creeped in and is not about to creep out any time soon. But It seems unimaginable today. Even those 3 (now 2, as one recently gave in) of my friends and acquaintances that do not possess a mobile phone in fact do this because they have other means of communication (all three are full- or part-time academics and avid internet-users).

But, as a sociologist, I should now spare you reminiscences about life before the advent of the mobile phone and get beyond personal anecdotes. So, let’s trace the ‘evolution’ of mobile phones through a chronological selection of some of the most popular mobile phones in the period between 1983 and 1999 – here. The Mobilephonehistory.co.uk website also has some interesting info about the history of mobiles. The Guardian chips in with an article, the title of which could be construed as not-so-hidden advertising. And here is a 2003 article by Lacohée, Wakeford and Pearson on the social history of the mobile phone, unfortunately already a little outdated. Perfect example of how quickly changes in technology can affect our everyday lives, the structure of the economy, socialising patterns, life chances, modes of sharing information, private/public spheres, employment opportunities, and much else. Do you know any other resources about the social history or social significance of mobile phone technology?


Categories: The Idle Ethnographer

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