The Mobile Phone in Pop Culture Over the Years
The humble mobile phone has come a LONG way
since its debut in 1973.
As the mobile phone morphed from a garish brick-like contraption in the ’80s to the sleek pocket pals we currently have, it gained prominence in our pop culture too. It is tough to find movies in a modern setting without mobile phone usage. Let’s take a brief journey through pop cultures mobile obsession.
Although mobile phones weren’t properly introduced until 1973, the idea of a mobile communicating device has been used for over half a century. Maxwell Smart, of the 1960’s comedy Get Smart, had a shoe that was part weapons holder and part rotary phone. Cultural phenomenon favorite, 1966’s Star Trek: The Original Series, had the iconic communicator that actually inspired the creation of the mobile phone.
The mobile phone didn’t become publicly distributed until the 1980’s. Since they were so large and clunky, it was not the sleekest accessory. But both businesses and consumers were desperate for a tool to make communication easier for them – especially on the go.
In 1983, Motorola launched the DynaTAC 8000x with the dimensions smaller dimensions (300 x 44×89 mm) and a lighter weight. This device offered one hour of talk time and included an LED display. This phone must have come in handy for Linda Hamilton while she was stealing vital data in the 1986 movie Black Moon Rising. Mobile phones sometimes end up being just as iconic as the characters that use them.
By the ’90s mobile phones and cordless home phones were just assumed, and so the preferences in pop culture (especially films) grew. Many young women remember the moment in the 1996 “classic” scream when Sidney finds the killer’s costume, mobile phone and voice changing device. It was scary, how powerful technology had become at that point. The other end of that technology power was referenced in more fun ways throughout the valley girl celebration titled Clueless in 1996.
Not everyone could afford a mobile phone though, so pagers were all the rage. Remember those? They were not exclusive to a doctor, nurse or cop-show about drug dealers. Teenagers across America had pagers. It was equivalent to the first text messages.
Back in 2002 and 2003, the rise of mobile phone usage in China – especially text messaging- gave birth to a new sort of culture. Some people called it “thumb culture” because of the speed and dexterity of youth in China who used their thumbs while holding a mobile phone.
In the US, the widespread use of mobile phones began to seep into children’s entertainment too. The television show Kim Possible included a theme song titled “Call Me, Beep Me”.
2007 is the iconic year for mobile phones… the release of the first ever iPhone. It was a big part of Steve Job’s big comeback with Apple. The iPod had blown up our ears with soundtracks we could take on-the-go. And now he was offering the most amazing thing of all – a mobile phone that let us listen to music AND it had a WiFi connection that let you browse the internet.
“This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two and a half years…So we’re going to reinvent the phone.” – Steve Jobs iPhone Keynote, 2007
Adoption of smartphones and the mobile phone in general has changed our world forever. We communicate differently – texting instead of calling. And we expect people to always respond in a minute, instead of hours or days.