"If you remember a time before mobile phones"

Discussion in 'General Off-Topic Chat' started by FAST6191, Oct 25, 2019.

  1. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

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    Nov 21, 2005
    United Kingdom
    So still technically being Thursday when I started I was watching the latest Isaac Arthur video, in this case mind machine interfaces, which was as usual a fascinating discussion but it had a throwaway line of "if you remember a time before cellphones" (or mobile phones if you speak proper).
    It occurred then that this might be the case for some people. I am old enough to remember the first ones being things only rich businessmen or people that absolutely needed to be contacted would have installed in cars (batteries of the day were not really something you could put in a pocket unless said pocket was the side of a laptop bag and you were wearing both belt and braces).
    Fast forward a few years into the early 1990s and there were options for mere mortals, however they would come with a credit check and represent a serious expense that one had to consider (to say nothing on the cost to the caller in the UK -- unlike the US the UK has a different band of numbers for mobile phones). Their functionality was fairly minimal (snake was a few years yet, or if you prefer go see the final sequence in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels for a pretty accurate representation of matters then*) and battery lives usually meant "the person you are calling has their phone switched off" was something you heard a lot.
    Around the time of snake then they started to be remarkably common in schools. UK wise this would probably also be around the time "pay as you go" (prepaid in US parlance) things became viable for many. It would also be the around the time "WAP" internet... I can't say rose up but the less said about that concept the better. I would like to find out when "don't bring your phone into school" became "don't have your phone disrupt lessons" but I am not that invested in the concept.
    Some point not long after that I remember adding several gigabytes (a considerable amount of space at the time) of maps of the UK to a mobile phone with a reasonable screen to also function as a GPS (in this case the person in question liked hill walking) -- some thing the likes of apple invented the "smart phone" and even if we disregard palmtop computers this is very much not the case, though if you were in the US with its horribly backwards phones then it might feel that way. Apple might have been the first to properly commit to some kind of openness that mattered but that is also getting ahead of things. Around the same time we also saw the rise of phone games (a good term of categorisation and also a search term would be J2ME), usually obtained by calling expensive phone lines (which made enough to continuously advertise on the likes of MTV back during the height of the Jackass era).
    So anyway Apple dropped the first to really bring the idea of applications (HP's earlier efforts were way too locked down for most people, and blackberry weren't doing much either). I am not sure when this first really took hold but if January 2009 saw one of the finest pieces of DS homebrew have its iphone port (said port then being the primary focus, to the point where the DS homebrew effort was all but stripped and then eventually stripped from the website) be noted in Eurogamer then I can't say it happened any later. If you were to attempt to argue for a later date then I would probably look at when websites absolutely needed to have mobile versions and not just stuff such people onto the print/no CSS edition.
    Android dropped fairly shortly afterwards and the rest is history (read I want to spare a rant on the lack of replaceable batteries and lack of SD card slots), give or take my wanting to note Microsoft essentially admitted to abandoning Windows phone about this time in 2017. though it was probably more like 2014 when it became a dead OS walking.
    I think I first met people that moved wholly from landlines to mobile phones in 2010 but have heard of earlier, today "oh we have a phone line but only use it for internet and have never even have a landline plugged in" is common.

    *another choice one would be that TV show Heroes and their product placement there. I did particularly want to find the scene where they all got new phones but searching for articles on product placement in that show saw me learn people turned it into a drinking game that would likely kill you.

    If my 2009 date is then the latest date things went wide it should also be noted that is the better part of 11 years at this point. If people don't have too many coherent memories of life before about 5 years old then said 5 year olds (judging by the buggies I see around about today then said 5 year olds might even have their own phone) are now approaching 16, a point where in many counties they can operate vehicles and are quite possibly deciding the course of much of the rest of their lives. If it was the 2003 date of the likes of Snake and earliest J2ME efforts then that does not make a harder to sell case that phones are a new invention -- said hypothetical 5 year old is now 21. At the same time many of these things are a slow crawl so some things may have snuck up on you.
    In my case I have tried never to have a phone, and even those few weeks where I have been compelled to have one (the last one being one week in 2013 according to my accounts) I left it on the table on charge as a landline in all but name. No particular philosophical reason for this, and it is mainly as I am a cheap bastard that refuses to pay for data that expires at the end of the month. To that end I tend not to treat them as a tool I have at my disposal and maybe part of the reason that statement I mentioned at the start (and titled the thread with) caused me to pause.

    While I am mainly after a discussion around the matter if we do need some framing questions then
    Are you someone that has grown up essentially always knowing them? Maybe you got to witness the transition periods above (or even the US dark ages of such things) and if so what are your memories of that periods? Are you also an old bastard? Did the idea that significant numbers of people have never not known a world with such things surprise you at some level?
  2. RandomUser

    RandomUser What has gotten into you Rosie?

    May 9, 2010
    United States
    Pagers before flip phones?
    I remember those and one time back in the late 80s or early 90s I saw a cellphone were huge with a huge antenna protruding out of it. They require clipping them on a belt for portability.
    Last edited by RandomUser, Oct 25, 2019
  3. Xandrid

    Xandrid GBAtemp Maniac

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    Mar 27, 2016
    I remember those, I had a black one but the mouth had a flap to it
  4. Hardline

    Hardline GBAtemp Fan

    May 7, 2012
    Yes im old :rolleyes:

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  5. Tom Bombadildo

    Tom Bombadildo SkyTom

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    Jul 11, 2009
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    I forgot
    I was born in 94, so I mostly remember growing up and witnessing the transition from blocky, indistructable Nokia 3310s to flip phones to Blackberry's to iPhones and the non-Android "smartphone" competitors (like the Samsung Instinct :lol:), and eventually to the smartphones we know today.

    I recall in my family the "rule" (at least, by the time my older sister turned 10) was that when you turned 10, you'd get your first phone...that you were only allowed to use for emergencies, and calling family to come pick you up from whatever.

    My first phone was some cheapo fat Razr knockoff, so I do remember things like T9 and "call after 9" for cheap call rates and such, but shortly after that I got a phone with a slide out keyboard, which introduced me to the "text me!" side of things, along with J2ME games and such which I thought was crazy at the time. I recall trying to get a GB emulator at one point, but could never get it working. I think the next phone upgrade after that was another slide out keyboard, just slightly ancier and a different color lol

    Then I got a cheapo smartphone, the aforementioned Samsung Instinct (and eventually it's successor, the Instinct S30), which was pre-Android so it was kind of...useless lol. I remember both phones has the same issue where the glue that holds the plastic resistive touch screen in place would basically die out, so the touchscreen would start to peel away eventually. So that was good.

    And then I got my first modern smartphone, the HTC Evo 4G, and that was basically the coolest thing ever. It introduced me to things like rooting and custom recoveries and custom ROMs and things like that, and for a good 4-5 years I was pretty heavy into that stuff until I eventually stopped caring about phone OS's and getting the absolute best experience so much.
  6. alexander1970

    alexander1970 GBAtemp allows me to be here

    Nov 8, 2018
    I remember when we got our first Telephone:

    This Modell in Burgundy in 1984 (how ironic.....).

    Before ?

    Very nice times in which we lived.
    We talked with each other,wrote Letters, and saw every four to five Weeks our distant living Relatives.
    If someone needs help ---> simlpy HELPED !

    No need....

    Thank you.:)
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  7. Ryccardo

    Ryccardo and his tropane alkaloids

    Feb 13, 2015
    My grandparents started with the Motorola 8200 and my parents with the 8700 - the main difference (apart from the newer model having a fully bitmap screen for the non-icons area and a slightly different button layout) was that the latter could send SMS (in fact it was the first mass market phone in Italy with that ability) - when in 2001 phone booths were upgraded to the still current model capable of doing that, it was the norm on most summer evenings for my mom to text "me" and replying to her!

    Both phones, by the way, came with a charging dock (which could fit 2 batteries) as a standard accessory, yet could run fine with no battery inserted!

    They also taught me to hate people claiming mini-SIM (2FF) is the largest one ;)

    That's also how Italy rolled - prefixes not only identified operators but also business vs consumer plans (a segregation which not very unsurprisingly quickly became meaningless, at least in limited part by number shortage)

    While when I was in elementary school (2001-2005) a kid having a phone was uncommon and frowned upon, it ultimately has always been the latter way here!
    (tangentially related: a Tamagotchi clone called "Be-Bit" was THE school annoyance, I had found out by luck the way to disable sound (not written in the manual), told everyone, and quickly became the hero for a week or so)

    By the time in my previous paragraph, my grandfather upgraded to the Nokia 3... I don't remember but it was the first Java phone despite nobody in the family knowing what that meant; I loved the paint program more than games, but can't say I didn't like Snake II, the almost-as-well-remembered space shoot em up, pinball, and a weird game I don't remember (Bantumi, was it called?) where there are numbered boxes, a large box, and you were supposed to do... something: at the end, the winning character (a black and a white circle with hands) would jump making an annoying noise and I loved scaring my grandmother with that (who thought it was a cockroach!)

    That was my first "chose it myself" phone in 2008 (Nokia 6120c) - I had helped my mom pick it and got it on a 2-year contract, for whatever reason she regretted the choice a couple of months later and went back to the previous one while giving that to me :D
    - Java and Symbian games off mobile9, probably pirated? Check
    - First tech purchase on my own money (40 € for a 2 GB microSD*)? Check
    - Showing off with "Super bluetooth hack" (an app which connected to another phone and emulated pretty much any bluetooth accessory imaginable)? Check
    - Trading MP3s and 3GP videos? Check (my favourite was "twin towers assault" consisting of 20 seconds or so of two CGI towers on an empty background, not even really resembling New York's, followed by a screamer)
    - First data plan, at the time the most luxurious one (9 €/month for 50MB/day, also valid on other countries' 3 networks and you bet I took advantage of that)? Check
    - Video calling (the actual 3G standard everyone forgot about, not voip) my mom from the Cliffs of Moher for 1,10 €/minute? You bet and totally worth it
    - First jailbreak (involving a file manager, HelloCarbide, and making false papers to get a fully privileged signing certificate for free)? Of course!
    - and of course Nokia Maps with full national offline maps (even though this phone doesn't have GPS and bluetooth receivers were 3-significants-digits priced)
    * and another one 10 months later or so for the original R4 I got at that time

    Almost makes me look ungrateful for the iPhone 3G S I got on launch week as an early passed-middle-school and birthday gift(!)

    Oh yeah, fell for one of those subscriptions once too (though in my case it was an ad in a magazine) - it only got worse

    Bought 4 of them between 2015-2018 after remembering how nice WP8.0 was on a friend's phone, all the apps I care about were available, had well working microSD support (unlike android since they started doing internal media partitions in various ways, indeed I used to compile my custom roms mainly to disable the /sdcard → /data/media hackjob) - yeah, I'll miss it (but not the questionable hardware build quality)

    Fun fact: I fired up my 520, opened IE history, I quickly figured out I last used it in the 3DS 10.3 days...

    MeBoy? Had some fun with it but I remember crashing way too easily!

    ...so yeah, I never saw the mobile-free society (though I certainly saw the one where they were still not everywhere) - it helps that Italy probably is the reason dual-sim phones (or, back then, flimsy adapters) are a thing :D

    The thing I miss most, though, is the race to making the SMALLEST phone - ie I'd preorder an Xperia U remake and buy it at full retail price, if that would end up a thing!

    Siemens, isn't it?
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  8. Hanafuda

    Hanafuda GBAtemp Addict

    Nov 21, 2005
    United States

    That's downright tiny compared to the first non-car cellphone I ever saw. It was a rectangular case the size of a woman's large handbag, complete with shoulder strap. The receiver was connected to the case with a traditional curly phone cable.

    I was born in '67, so I remember a time before almost all "modern tech." We listened to vinyl, 8-track, and cassettes. No remote control for the TV. I actually got an Atari 2600 for Christmas, in 1977.

    Best thing for a young person in the 'time before mobile phones' was when you went out on Friday or Saturday night, you were out until you came home. Mommy couldn't keep tabs on your ass. You might pay for it if you came home drunk at 4am, but there was nobody making sure you didn't. Freedom.
    Last edited by Hanafuda, Nov 4, 2019
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  9. sarkwalvein

    sarkwalvein There's hope for a Xenosaga port.

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    Jun 29, 2007
    I first had a -landline phone- home when I was 11. Before that phones were kind of a concept attached to rich people of "the big city". /s
    I am not that old, but for some reason landlines were not commonplace (or available) in the suburban nowhere in which I lived.

    Regarding mobile phones, specially the ones of "smart" variety, I am one of those grumpy persons that liked the world better before them, yet perhaps an hypocrite that buys some brand flagship every couple years.

    There is one particular question I will answer:
    It does not surprise me, it annoys me.
    It makes me feel abandoned and left out like one of the last survivors of some disappearing culture, an old man's feeling for sure.

    And I notice it specially when I see some things "adapted" to new times: I was watching that Amazon Prime's series the other day, "modern love", kind of inspired by some weekly newspaper column. It was quite obvious the first short's setting was end of the 90s or so, but the characters were all around always communicated through smartphone messaging apps and social media and whatnot, always in contact... so out of place, but adapted so that the "current audience" could connect with them, yet it made no sense and made me feel out of place... I guess people can't understand a world without smartphones anymore.

    Oh wait, this turned from "remember a time before mobile phones" to old SarkW's grumpy rant. I better go back to my business.
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  10. alexander1970

    alexander1970 GBAtemp allows me to be here

    Nov 8, 2018
    Yes,of course....:rofl2:
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  11. DinohScene

    DinohScene Feed Dino to the Sharks

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    Oct 11, 2011
    I can't remember a time before mobile phones but I can remember a time before smartphones.
    As Tom said, seen the transition from candybar style phones to flip phones.
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  12. RandomUser

    RandomUser What has gotten into you Rosie?

    May 9, 2010
    United States
    You know, now that you have mentioned it, I believe you're right, I think I do remember seeing cases the size of a women's large handbag. Stuff made in that time was probably more robust compared to today.
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  13. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

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    Nov 21, 2005
    United Kingdom
    We ended up with a bag of those old bag sized/separate battery phones at one point (some firm that had bought a bunch for their people way back in the day was getting rid of them). Used to play with them but this was before I knew too much about such things.

    Sadly my technology hoarding tendencies were somewhat curbed at that point in life, and they were still new but not new enough to be considered old junk, else I would probably still have some today or have remade it into a house phone.
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  14. Stwert

    Stwert GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Jan 6, 2015
    United Kingdom
    Mobile phones? I remember a time when most people didn’t have phones, VCR’s, colour TV and more than 3 channels to watch on them, if you could be bothered getting up off your arse and walking over to it to change the channel that is.

    On the subject of mobiles though, I’m toying with the idea of going back to a dumb phone, for a while anyway, to see how I cope. Life was different when we weren’t stuffing our nose into a phone every 30 seconds we have. Maybe I’ll, god help me, speak to people :D
    Last edited by Stwert, Nov 13, 2019
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