Thursday, 20 June 2013

The mobile phone- 40 years on

The editor of the Sentinel in early 1878 was extremely prescient in his comments.

“We have the telephone which promises to annihilate both time and space and enables us to talk audibly to our cousins in America and to our unborn great, grand children in the 20th century. The telephone has already established much. Its latest achievements is to enable London editors to hear by word of mouth what is passing in the House of Commons. The next thing to wish for is to be able to know what MPs, ministers especially ,intend to say before they say it”

In January 1878, when the editorial was written, the telephone was only 18 months old. It was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in the United States. The first public demonstration of the telephone was in May 1877 in Boston. For the editor of the Staffordshire Sentinel to be so alive to the possibilities of such an infant invention is remarkable.

In the resultant 135 years we have all become aware of how central the telephone has been to our lives, more so since the invention of the mobile phone. In April 1973 a researcher for Motorola Martin Cooper made the first call on a cordless phone to a rival Joel Engel of Bell Labs whilst walking the streets of Manhattan. Later, he remarked how open mouthed New Yorkers were to see someone moving around making a call. Of course we joke about cumbersome and limited the first mobile phones were. I even remember the first time I ever saw and it was in peculiar circumstances. It was in the late 80s and I was in a Manchester night club. A very attractive blond was summoning a taxi with a phone the size of a house brick and lying on the floor was a very drunk Alex “Hurricane” Higgins the snooker player.

The mobile phone is now a ubiquitous part of our lives. And unfortunately people seem to abandon any sense of propriety in its usage. I saw a young woman give a love rival what for in colourful language while walking down Gladstone Street a few weeks ago. And the existence of more sophisticated equipment now makes it possible to buy train tickets amongst other things, keep in contact with work colleagues every waking moment,and to download various forms of entertainment. It also has a down side. I was in a pub in Leek recently and could not help notice that two men spent more time on their I-Phones than they did in talking to one another.