Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Cell Phone Celebrates 25 Years

When I watched an old 1988 thriller, "Miracle Mile," one of the things that struck me was the huge cellular phone used by Denise Crosby. And even that handset was five years newer than the phone used in the first commercial cellular phone call.

That call was made on October 13th, 1983, 25 years ago. Bob Barnett, president of Ameritech Mobile communications, called Alexander Graham Bell's nephew from Chicago's Soldier Field using a Motorola DynaTAC 8000X handset.

That baby was known as the "Brick," based on its heft (2.5 pounds) and shape. 8 hours of standby time and 30 minutes of talk time (woo hoo!). Service plans were a bit pricey, at costing $50 a month for the service, plus 40 cents a minute at peak hours and 24 cents a minute at off-peak times. Nope, there were no unlimited plans.

Of course, in those days, the idea was to use the phone to make phone calls (duh). Nowadays the phone is used less for talking and more for texting (as a recent study has shown). And things like the Internet, MP3s and even videos on your cell phone were not even imagined then.

Of course, no one who watched the original Star Trek series and has seen a flip-type cell phone couldn't see the obvious similarities.

As of June, according to the CTIA, there were nearly 263 million mobile subscribers in the U.S. alone. That amounts to about 84% of the population (although it doesn't take into account the fact that some people have multiple lines, the most common example being one for work and one for personal use). What was once futuristic has now become so commonplace that if your kid doesn't have a cell phone, people look at you funny. According to Neilsen Research, nearly half of all children between the ages of 8 and 12 years have cell phones (I hesitate to use the word "own").

So here's to another 25 years of irradiating our bodies. Yes, after 25 years of commercial use, we are still arguing about that. I won't give up my cell phone, but I will play it safe and use a Bluetooth headset, though I'm not necessarily convinced one way or the other ...

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