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Mobile Phone History

Motorola invent cellular technology

In the world we live in today it is safe to say that we cannot imagine what we would do without our mobile phones and in fact can't even comprehend what we did before the invention of the mobile phone. Before 6 March, 1983, the thought of being able to communicate anytime, anyplace, anywhere wasn't even in most people's minds when Motorola made an amazing breakthrough with the launch of the DynaTAC 8000X.

Motorola had been at the forefront of portable communications for years prior to the release of the DynaTAC. In 1930 they produced the first commercially successful car radio, which they developed into the two-way radios which became standard for the allies during the Second World War. They then went on to develop such things as pagers, car radio telephones and radio transponders which today we take for granted as fairly small pieces of technology whereas in those times such things were revolutionary. As a result of their forward thinking, it was Motorola's technology that allowed the rest of the world to hear Neil Armstrong's famous words from the Moon in 1969. However, in 1968 the next breakthrough had already been made. Based on 'cells' that would enable the same radio frequencies to be reused simultaneously in other areas, Motorola started to look into the possibility of mobile cellular phones.

Birth of the Mobile 'Brick'

Between 1968 and the release of the DynaTac in 1983, $100 million was invested in the research and development of cellular technology. The DynaTAC 8000X weighed 785g (28 ounces) and sized up at a huge 300x44x89mm (13x1.75x3.5"). It could only manage one hour of talk time and eight hours of standby time, which meant that if you wanted it on 24 hours a day you would have to charge up three sets of batteries every day! There was a 150mm (6") aerial protruding from the top of it and the DynaTAC could only hold a mere 30 numbers in its very limited memory.

The phone was first released in America and to be privileged enough to own one you would have to find a whopping $3995 which at the time obviously meant only the rich could afford it. One problem you might have already guessed was that there was very limited signal coverage to enable you to use it, so a lot of the time it was just used for posing purposes. The phone may have resembled a brick in size but by the end of 1984 there were 300,000 users worldwide. It may be a mere drop in the ocean compared to the 1.2 billion mobile phone users today but at that price it is still an impressive number.

Through the years there have been some important firsts that have all contributed to the way our mobiles look and feel today. These range from the very simple which we all take for granted to the very latest technological advances that have turned our mobile phones into our most prized possessions. Here is a list of some of these revolutionary ideas:

SMS (Short Message Service)

How would we survive with texting? Many companies have claimed to have sent the very first text message however reports suggest that the honour went to Edward Lantz, an employee at NASA who sent a simple message via his Motorola Beeper using upside down numbers to spell out words. The first commercial SMS message was sent over the Vodafone GSM network in the UK on 3rd December 1992 from Neil Papworth on a personal computer to Richard Jarvis using an Orbitel 901 handset. The message read "Happy Christmas". Today we have moved on again to predictive text but I think the verdict is still out on it seeing as a good portion of the mobile using world prefer to stick to the single letter format.

Camera Phones - MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service)

Another device from the 'classics' category is the J-SH04 which was made by Sharp, and was released by J-Phone in Japan in 2000. It was the world's first phone to have an inbuilt camera and so paved the way for others of its kind. Around 2003, mobiles that supported MMS but didn't have the technology, tried to edge their way into the marketing by selling external cameras that could be plugged into the bottom of the mobile however the idea never really caught on with the added hassle of two components. Since the early days, camera phones have made a giant leap and are now the soul reasons behind some people's purchases.

In 2006 Sony Ericsson released the K800 with "Cyber-Shot" capabilities on a 3.2 megapixel camera. This featured something called "BestPic" which allowed the user to take a string of photos within seconds so that you could pick out the best one and would never have to settle for a blurred picture again. This idea was greeted with open arms by the public and now Sony Ericsson is probably the first company people think of in relation to camera phones. Today mobiles are being released with monstrous 8 to 10 megapixel cameras, which will start overtaking the digital camera market in years to come as people will look to include all aspects into one easy to carry object. More recent phones in the Cyber-shot range include the Sony Ericsson C90 and the soon to be released C905 with 5 and 8 megapixel cameras respectively.

Colour Screens

Sony Ericsson can also boast at being the first popular colour screen phone. The T68 was not the first colour screen device (there is much debate over what was - the Japanese market probably holds the answer to that question) - but it was one of the first colour screen devices that was accepted in the market. Additionally, it was actually Sony Ericsson's first device - signalling the merging together of a consumer electronics company and a traditional telecoms giant. The T68i has consistently great feedback on internet forums, even today being praised for its small size, fantastic battery life and great call quality.


Over the last 10 years ringtones have evolved from tinny, barely recognisable musical renditions to full mp3 tracks. Some phones such as the new walkman range of Sony Ericsson or Nokia's XpressMusic range are as good as what you hear on the radio or a CD. This transformation has been underlined by a shift in ringtone format technology in four key phases of development.

The very first generation of ringtones were known as "monophonic" ringtones as they could only support playback of one note as a time. The sounds these types of ringtones could make were also very limited, typically only allowing a single tone to be played at varying pitches. This was particularly popular with Nokia handsets as they allowed you to create your own ringtone file if you knew what you were doing.

Next were Polyphonic ringtones, first emerging in Japan around 2001 and allowing several types of notes and instruments to be played at one time. The first polyphonic ringtones used sequenced recording methods such as MIDI.

The third generation of ringtone formats appeared fairly quickly after polyphonic ringtones had become established. These types of ringtone have been variously referred to as truetones or realtones. In contrast to monophonic and polyphonic tones, truetones allow a full, high-fidelity recording, including vocals, to be used as a ringtone. The first format to provide this kind of experience was AMR-WB, which began being incorporated into Nokia phones in around 2004. This bought a boom in the ringtone market as companies began to capitalise on the growing interest for individual ringtones.

At the present time, what some call the fourth and final generation, ringtones have finally caught up with the music world in MP3 format and have nothing left to surpass as the sound quality is equal to that of an iPod or CD player. Of course it does depend on the limitations of the handset as some mobile phones specialise in music in comparison to others that have MP3 capabilities but lack the necessary sound technology to play the track. Mobiles such as the new Sony Ericsson W980 or the Nokia N95 with 3.5mm jack specialise on sound quality and from first hand experience they sound amazing.


According to Ericsson, the Sony Ericsson T36 was the first mobile phone to have built-in Bluetooth wireless technology. When it was first introduced Bluetooth essentially meant the free sending of picture messages and ringtones to other Bluetooth phones but since then Bluetooth has become an important tool for most business men and women.

The idea of Bluetooth is to forgo the inconvenience of cables by connecting devices such as mobile phones, PCs, printers and handheld computers to each other without wires, it also allows for a direct connection between your phone and a headset which makes driving a lot safer. With the introduction of Bluetooth 2.0 to latest handsets such as the Samsung Tocco or the Sony Ericsson G900 it allows for a much larger date transfer which basically means you can also listen to stereo music using wireless headphones.

BlackBerry - Instant Email

For a history of mobile phones, the BlackBerry range is also deserving of a mention as it has revolutionised the way people can send emails. Through a wireless network people are now able to send emails from wherever they are all over the world without the need for a computer/laptop or even any wires. For business people on the go this handset has made life a whole lot easier. In essence, Blackberry mobile phones utilise push technology which means that unlike a normal phone which has to keep logging on to a system to check for new mail, mail is pushed directly to a Blackberry device so that it arrives instantly.

Latest mobile phones

It would take a lifetime to actually name all the phones and features that have been either ground breaking or just amazing over the years so to end this summary of technological advances here's a few particularly worthy mobile phones that deserve a mention.

Firstly there is the Samsung Tocco. The Tocco comes in three different colours of black, brown and pink and is compatible with the new 3G HSDPA mobile broadband connectivity. This basically means that the old WAP or limited online activity is being stricken from phones to make way for super fast browsing and downloads.

Next is the Sony Ericsson W980. The W980 is the latest in mobile music technology with amazing sound; it also features an innovative shake control. With Shake control activated, press and hold the Walkman key, then flick your wrist and it will randomly select another song. There is also a massive 20 hours of music playback which means the W980 is a force to be reckoned with!

On to the HTC Touch Diamond. HTC have taken a great leap forward in touch screen innovation with the release of the HTC Touch Diamond and the ground breaking 3D touch interface called TouchFLO 3D. TouchFLO provides animated access to contacts, messaging photos and music. It basically is Microsoft's answer to the Apple iphone as it is inbuilt with such applications as Word, Excel, Access etc and it genuinely does gives the iphone a good run for its money.

Our fourth choice is the Sony Ericsson G90. The G900 is simple and sophisticated at the same time; it offers everything you need from a mobile but in an uncomplicated package. It lets you choose how you want to use your phone; Make a call, listen to a song, visit a Web site, with the G900 it is simple and straight forward. Use the key control - or just touch the screen with your finger to make it happen. What you can do with pen and paper, you can do with your G900. Press the Notes key and use the stylus to write in your own handwriting. Quick and easy, no keyboard needed.

Last but by no means least, is the Nokia N95. The high performing N95 has been around a while now but as it still has a few little extras not yet mentioned such as an in-built GPS receiver supporting SatNav applications. This isn't brand new technology but deserves a mention as mobile companies try to break into other markets and yet manage to keep their handsets so compact. It also features HSDPA Mobile Broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity for high speed web browsing without the need to even use wires. The upgrade to the N95, the N96 boasts the inbuilt technology of a DVB-H tuner which allows you to watch digital TV on your phone! And the soon to be released touchscreen N9 is practically a true computer with an incredible 32GB of onboard memory.

Since that first Motorola 'brick', of course, mobiles have become cheaper, lighter and longer lasting. They have gained more features then anyone could possibly have imagined, ranging from simple aspects such as phone books, calendars, games and texting, to the more advanced features such as internet browsing, video calling, some even compatible to work with windows as well as the latest developments in touch screen technology. Mobile phones have become an essential everyday item to most of us. The DynaTAC 8000X is a dinosaur in today's eyes but a landmark on the road to today's highly connected world.

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