The modern mobile phone is a more complex version of the two-way radio. Traditional two-way radio was a very limited means of communication. In the 1940s, researchers decided to use a number of radio masts to pick up signals from two-way radios. When a caller moved too far away from one mast, the next mast would pick up the signal. Scientists called each mast’s reception area a separate “cell”; this is why in many countries mobile phones are called “cell phones”.
The first real mobile telephone call was made in 1973 by Dr Martin Cooper, the scientist who invented the modern mobile handset. He tested his invention by calling a rival scientist to announce his success. Within a decade, mobile phones became available to the public. The streets of modern cities were full of young professionals who carried the expensive handsets as status symbols.
But in the mid-90s, something happened. Cheaper handsets and cheaper calling rates meant that, almost overnight, it seemed that everyone had a mobile phone. And the giant plastic bricks of the 80s had been replaced with smooth little objects that fitted nicely into pockets and bags.
Meeting times became approximate, subject to change at any moment under the new order of communication: the Short Message Service (SMS) or text message. Going to be late? Send a text message! It takes much less effort than arriving on time, and it’s much less awkward than explaining your lateness face-to-face. It’s the perfect communication method for the busy modern lifestyle.
Like email before it, the text message has altered the way we write in English, bringing more abbreviations and a more lax approach to language construction. Traditional rules of grammar and spelling are much less important when you’re sitting on the bus, hurriedly typing “Will В 15min late — C U @ the bar. Sorry!:-)”.
Mobile phones are now a vital part of daily life for people. Over the last few years mobiles have become more and more advanced, with built-in cameras, global positioning devices and internet access. The “third generation” of mobile phones is powerful microcomputers with broadband internet access, which allow us to watch TV, download internet files at high speed and send instant video clips to friends.
Alexander Graham Bell would be amazed if he could see how far the science of telephony has progressed in less than 150 years. If he were around today, he might say: “That’s gr8! But I’m v busy rite now. Will call U 2nite”.