Mobile, may we forever be… 40 years on 0



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He came home one day in the same old yellow family station wagon, but it had a new addition… “Come out and have a look everyone”, he said with pride.  We all dutifully followed him out to the car not knowing what to expect, and there in the centre console was a great big black device.  We had our first mobile phone in the family.    It still had to be powered by the car, but it was a real, mobile phone.


My dad was in a government job when the first mobile phones came out in our area.  Apparently,  it was important that people could call him any time so he was given a phone, first in his car, then to carry with him.  And despite it being the size of a brick, he dutifully did so.


Not many people had mobile phones in those days, so as a youngster I thought we were really really special.  My friends would come over to play and I would take them out to dad’s car to “admire” the car phone… Adults and children who visited for a while would all go for a walk out to the car and “have a look”.  Funny to look back on it now.


It is forty years since the mobile phone was first created…   They were 2.5 pounds in weight, a far cry from the 4-ounce handsets we can all happily reach for these days.


“I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone,”  said  Motorola’s Martin Cooper to Bell Labs rival Joel Engel on April 3, 1973.


Now, almost everyone is mobile. In fact, by late 2012 there was more than seven million more mobile phones in use than there are people in Australia.  Scary huh!


Mobile phones evolved slowly from the first carphones I remember.  It took a while for compact batteries to arrive so for a time, they looked like they do in this picture…


Having a mobile was a status symbol of the wealthy, important and popular.  You could pick the “early adopters” a mile away – the ones who wanted to be at one with new technology (the same person that lines up at Apple for the latest ipad when it comes out now).  Most would attach their mobile phone in a large belt clip, to their waist, wanting to “show off” their early adopter status.



Mobile phones over the ages have moved in application.  First they were for emergency contact, crisis management and very important conversations.  Mobile data was very expensive. Back in those early days I don’t remember Dad talking on the phone much at all and we were warned never to try out our Grandparents phone number on the car phone… {That was the only number we rote-learned}.


Then, they became truly more mobile, with no requirement to be tethered to the car battery for power.   And as they came down in size and data became cheaper, people would “use” their mobile for phonecalls.  This was a big advancement because people were not used to being contactable 24/7 like we are today.


Gradually, you saw people start carrying their mobiles in clips on their waist, and they were a suitable size.  Motorola was the major mover in the early mobile market in Australia.  Up until about ten years ago, mobile phones were for “only when you had to”… Now, most of my family don’t have a landline.


Somewhere in the middle of the last ten years, mobile messaging kicked off… You could send a text message from your phone.  I have to admit being a late adopter of text messaging… I never understood why you would want to spend 3-5 minutes fumbling with letter numbers on the phone face to get a message to someone when you could just call them.  People would send me a text and I would ring them and say “Sorry but its easier to call and I like talking to people”.


Then, a few years ago now we got “The Internet” on our phones.  I don’t know about you, but I was scared to use it.  I have a mild to rampant distrust of telecommunications companies like Telstra and Optus, spawned from years of sitting on hold to them and never getting to someone helpful just being routed sixteen times round India.  So didn’t want to run a bill up from “Surfing” my phone. Although the idea of having internet on my phone was good, the handset didn’t make it easy to use and the cost was rather prohibitive.


And then the day came… It was a big day for me, the day I went to the shop and bought my first iPhone.  A few of my early adopting friends had had them a while.  They would fly in from America where they worked and we would, just like in the early days, crowd round the phone… oohing and ahhing.  “Can I see it, Can I touch it…   Could you show me an app…”  It was dinner party entertainment… and all this was less than 6 years ago!


I was in my early days of marketing consulting, and as a mum, with not much expendable income, it was a big splurge.  Scared of a two year contract, of the cost and damage I could do with Internet on the go, and of what it meant to have “mobile apps”, I was nervous… but I did it.  Ever since, I have been the first at the Apple store buying the next release, whenever my contract comes off.  I love them.  Frankly, the mobility and freedom of thinking and doing on the fly allowed me to grow a marketing business while raising three kids.  I have a camera with me everywhere I go, and I use it more than daily (Unlike many people’s third kids, my third child actually got photos taken of him thanks to iphone).


I am on my third iphone today, and carry an ipad everywhere I go too, complete with 3G.  I can’t be away from an Internet based device for longer than about an hour I reckon… Lucky for you guys, because that is how I monitor the site all day every day….


Are you really, properly mobile?   When did you get your first mobile phone?


Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

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