Imagine a world without text message communication. Imagine making plans with friends at home through a landline phone, then showing up to that location at the agreed-upon time. No “leaving now!” or “whoops, looks like I’ll be a little late,” messages. Simply the promise of being somewhere, and following through.
This fictional-feeling world was only recently eradicated, in the context of time as a whole. According to Mashable writer Christine Erickson, the first ever text was sent in 1992. This 25-year-old innovation — a millennial, in its own right — provided an all-encompassing communication evolution. Who needed voices anymore? Now, we have words.
Every aspect of telecommunication has usurped whichever innovation came prior, carrying societies into greater understandings of how small the world could feel, how intimately we could connect with other sides of the globe.
In regards to portable conversations, this began with the car phone in the mid-20th century. Although it was not a popular sight until the ’70s and ’80s, the first car phone that could operate off of cell towers — as opposed to physical plug-ins to telephone poles — traces back to the ’40s and ’50s. It was the most mobile a phone had ever been: able to follow you from your home to your final destination.
The first basic cell phone call took place in 1973. Martin Cooper rang from New York to New Jersey on what would become Motorola’s DynaTAC, the brick phone you’d see in ’80s sitcoms that could probably double as a self-defense weapon.
The first basic cell phone call took place in 1973. Martin Cooper rang from New York to New Jersey on the brick phone that could probably double as a self-defense weapon.
The Nokia 3210 was next in 1999, featuring caller ID and SMS messaging. This phone has a reputation of being unbreakable, the device your uncle bought when it came out and could reasonably still own today.
The early 2000s brought about a string of what I know as middle schoolers’ first devices — Razrs, LG Chocolates, Nokia flip phones — that would teach youth to master T9 while grown men wondered exactly whose thumbs these buttons were made to fit.
The QWERTY keyboard was popularized throughout the early- to mid-2000s by phones such as the Sidekick and Blackberry, requiring us to master new keys while reminding us innovation is always around the corner. Additionally, Blackberries spurred forward our understanding of phones as business devices. Their abilities to receive and send email and browse the web meant no man or woman ever had to be completely off the clock, lest they wanted to be.
The first apple iPhone debuted in 2007, remaining elite to AT&T users until 2011 when it opened up to other carriers. The rest, you could say, is history: the growing feeling that the world is no further than our fingertips, an evolving connectivity with those around us, the dependence on devices as an extension of ourselves.
The iPhone was not the first of its kind in any one category — there had been other touchscreens, there had been other web-enabled smart devices, there had been other mobile phones — but it was the first to combine these features into one device.
It was also the first to introduce one other standout feature: an app store that allowed users to customize their phone’s capabilities depending on personal interest and need. It became a device for gaming, learning languages, posting photos, calling across the world. It was the world on a string, or in a pocket.
Looking ahead to the future of smart devices, I imagine society would remain uncompromising on three features: quality cameras, improved connectivity and simplified communication. With the emphasis on personal branding and oversharing, smartphones are racing to produce handheld cameras with a more Instagram-worthy clarity than their competitors.
The rise of remote and at-home workers will demand mobile devices meet the required level of professionalism: that they fail to drop calls, and have decent mobile interfaces for employees using software on the go.
The iPhone and other smartphones are more and more being used to put nearby friends in the same room together with software such as Find Friends and Snapchat’s new Map feature. It’s going beyond the dropped pin to allow users to locate and connect with one another in real time. I’d imagine this feature to evolve, and hopefully in ways that would address safety concerns.
It’s easy to feel like the iPhone has taken us to the end of the line, as far as a phone can go. That phones in general have peaked, like Grandpa Joe and Charlie when they drink the bubble juice in Willy Wonka and are endangered if they try to fly upward any further.
This has been said before, and still surpassed. Perhaps the future isn’t phones; maybe it’s wearables, artificial intelligence or virtual reality. Whatever it is, it’s naive to believe we’re done here.
“The challenge is figuring out how to use technology to enhance humanity, not degrade it,” Florie Brizel said.
I believe there is yet some enhancing left to do.
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