Tuesday, 8 June 2010

How Did We Manage Before ...?

I can remember a conversation with my husband, before he was my husband, about watches. The conversation was about how complex watches had become (digital watches were still an expensive item and not very good) with practically all analogue watches having a date function by that time. My yet-to-become husband said that he remembered the strange looks that he got when he first came back to the UK after a posting to Germany and someone asked what the date was and he (hubby-to-be) looked at his watch. Watches with a date function had not yet become commonplace in the UK hence the strange looks when hubby-to-be looked at his wrist.

Mobile phones when they first became available were difficult to actually call mobile. Yes, you could make a call without recourse to a fixed line, but coverage was patchy and the phones themselves were the size of a brick, and somewhat unsurprisingly that is the name that became attached to them.

Once it became established that this was the way ahead for mobile communications, more companies climbed on the bandwagon and offered a mobile service. Some providers had better coverage than others so you needed to do a bit of detective work to see whether the network provider that you were thinking of getting connected to would give you a service that did at least mean that most of your calls would get through to the person you were trying to call.

It was about this time that I got my first mobile phone. It came free with my new car. Ford started to give a free mobile phone with new cars because they could see the benefit to the driver having a mobile phone in case of an emergency. And I managed with that free mobile phone for several years because I did only use it on rare occasions. My husband liked me to have it with me when I went on long journeys on my own and it was handy for letting him know that I had arrived safely.

Eventually phones became smaller; they truly were mobile and could easily be carried in a handbag or a pocket. Small was beautiful and the smaller your phone the more impressive it seemed to be. Then cameras were added to the phones and if you had a mobile phone you always had a camera with you to take that spur of the moment, once in a lifetime photograph. Then a video facility was added and while the photographs and video that you may capture with your phone were never going to win any prizes they provided hours of fun for some people. And then there was the 'hands free' boom achieved first with and earpiece and microphone attached to the phone and later with a Bluetooth-enabled earpiece that looked like something that you might see Lt Uhura in Star Trek sporting in one ear.

Mobile phones have started to become larger again. Now it is not sufficient to have a phone to make the odd phone call or send a quick text message, you need to have a phone that allows you to access the Internet, that allows you to listen to your entire collection of MP3 tracks, that allows you to listen to the radio if that is your thing, that provides an alternative facility for sending and receiving emails, gives you GPS capability so that you need never get lost. And all of this means that those dinky little phones of a few years ago are now a thing of the past and your credibility seems to be determined by how many 'apps' you have on your mobile phone.

You are probably wondering where this is all going. Well, just as my husband got strange looks when he looked at his watch to see what the date was, so we are now living in a time where it is not unusual to see people walking along the street talking to themselves. Just a few years ago if you did that you would be considered a suitable case for a quick admission to the local mental hospital, now it seems that you have to be seen constantly talking into a mobile phone or you are a loser, someone with no friends. And many people are not content with just one mobile any more. A few years ago anyone with two mobile phones would be likely to have his collar felt by the local constabulary as a possible drug dealer, but today it does not seem to be unusual to be seen with a mobile in each hand.

Considering that this has all happened in a relatively short a time period it begs the question, 'How did we manage before we had mobile phones?'


Anonymous said...

I (med student aged 21) have always manage perfectly fine with a phone that can only call and text. However I am going to get one of those complex ones only because it will let me do something productive instead of falling asleep or fidgeting in lectures... and I guess I can use it to read a book or something on the train. During the holidays though I can't see any use for it and I will switch back to my simple phone in case it gets stolen.

Lily said...

I always wonder what I did without my phone, and each time I get a phone that does something new and fancy I wonder how I coped without that before.

I always worry a bit when I see people talking with a hands free kit walking down the road. It looks very odd!

steph said...

This post is so well-written and well-informed, I suggest you submit it to the paper/magazine of your choice and see if it earns you a few extra pennies!