Life Before Mobile Phones Essay

My 16-year-old brother (who is 11 years younger than me) asked me what I did with my phone before texting the other day. Like, dead seriously asked me what in the world I did with a cell phone I couldn't text people with.

My answer to his question was "talk to people." This was eye opening because it was just 11 years ago that I was wondering what people did before cell phones, and the answer I received to that question was "talk to people." HOW FASCINATING. It's almost as if the definition of talking to people has changed.

And that's because it has.

11 years ago, I was 16 and sneaking on my flip phone at sleep away camp to go on the AIM Express website because for some reason I, unlike most other children, had the internet on my phone and was already addicted. Because of this, I was always on my phone , whether I was calling a friend, playing a game that came with the phone, or communicating with the other Nextel users among my peers via "beep beep" AKA two-way radio. And if anyone thought I was bad then, now I cannot QUIT my iPhone. Every five seconds I am checking that thing. Going from my email, to the Facebook app, to the Twitter app, to the Instagram app, to my texts, to Timehop, to my website's stats, and then back to my email. It's sick and it's an addiction.

But just imagine how bad that addiction is going to be for kids who think this is the norm? For the kids who know nothing except having a device in which you can do everything and anything on without having to communicate face-to-face or mouth-to-mouth with anyone?

I used to think it would be landline phones and VHS tapes that would be the retro part of my childhood. But it is going to be so much more than that. With the rate technology upgrades are moving at, smart phones are going to be considered retro in 10 years probably...

But before you think about how EFFED UP THAT IS, travel back in time to when things were simpler -- you know, when you just had a cell phone that maybe had internet access via a web browser.

Here are 15 things we did differently before smartphones:

1. Printed out directions to destinations from Mapquest and followed said print out while driving. RIP Mapquest.

2. Upgraded to GPS's for navigation instead of print outs from the interwebs. We actually carried around another device prior to having maps and directions (updated in real time with traffic and stuff) ON OUR CELL PHONES.

3. Carried around digital cameras to take pictures with. Because the camera on our non-smartphones were just not good enough. Even the Blackberry's camera sucked and that was most definitely a smartphone. It just wasn't smart enough. We also used to store our pictures on our computers instead of on our phones. I miss that.

4. Used CDs followed by MP3 players followed by iPods to store our music on. Now, people have music on their phones. Or, people have music streaming services on their phones because why download a small number of songs when you can stream them all? The 5,000 songs I had on my iPod in high school suddenly does not seem cool anymore (but it, like, totally was).

5. Checked our email on the computer, and only on the computer. So if you were out of the office, you were REALLY out of the office. You could actually use the excuse "I wasn't at a computer" if you missed an email or something because the only way you could get said email was on the computer. Now you're expected to be on your email literally all the time, even though your work place is most likely not paying for your shit-induced data plan (I see you, Verizon).

6. Went on to check Facebook instead of clicking on the Facebook app on our phones (or waiting for pop-up notifications). I'm not even sure if this one counts because youths today do not even use Facebook. I also still go on, but I also couldn't get into the whole tablet thing. I like my laptop and I like my phone and I'm not sorry.

7. Posted pictures as is. Only a very select group of people re-touched their photos in Photoshop or MS Paint to make themselves look thinner and tanner. I actually am a culprit of darkening my photos in iPhoto after uploading my pics to my computer via USB cord to make myself look tan AF. But now, there's a whole app that does that for you. Kids don't even know what un-touched photos look like. It's kind of sad, right?

8. Did the math in our heads or on paper to calculate the tip at restaurants. Unless someone had their TI-88 calculator with them, you had to solve that problem yourself.

9. Wrote notes to friends during class and shopping lists on paper. We couldn't text people, or send them Snapchats -- we had to send physical notes on real life paper. And we couldn't put our shopping list in the "notes" section of our iPhones. Seriously, how was I even living before I could take notes on my phone? The question is real.

10. Go to the bank or an ATM to check the balance left in our accounts. Or maybe you just knew. For instance, sometimes I panic while next in line at the grocery store that there will not be enough money in my bank account to cover it, but then I check my balances with my trusty banking app and find out I do. How did I manage to shop anywhere before having an ATM on my phone? Makes no sense. To throw it back EVEN MORE, who remembers when you went through the bank drive thru with your parents and they transported their money requests in this futuristic tube? OoOoOoOoooo.

11. Hailed cabs on the side of the road. There's an app for that now? Have you heard of it? Remember my 15-year-old brother? Well, he lives in the suburbs and takes Uber to and from friends' houses over the weekend. Imagine if we had Uber in high school? Things would have been a lottttttt different.

12. Paid people back with cash. Now, you can pay people directly from your phone right away on Venmo. No more chasing people down (lol, jk). Now it's just instant pay.

13. Made plans with friends via AIM and later Facebook events. Every Friday I would put up an away message that said "What's up for tonight?" and people would answer. Because, yes, there was a time before mass texts.

14. Made eye contact with people while doing things such as eating dinner across from someone, commuting to work, or waiting at a coffee shop. Now, no one makes eye contact because our eyes are literally glued to our phones. We rely on our phones to meet other people and find love. No wonder no one meets IRL anymore.

15. Talked to people on the phone. Like, actually spoke to them. For hours. Our smartphones have now made us so busy because we are expected to be available for work and life 24 hours a day 7 days a week that we don't have time to talk to people. We keep in touch in group texts and Snapchats, but let's be real people -- it just isn't the same as talking on the phone, which I have grown to hate slash fear. Especially when I have to make appointments. Isn't there an app for that yet?

This post originally appeared on

Follow Samantha Matt on Twitter:

The History and Evolution of Cell Phones

By: Amanda Ray Filed under: Gaming & Technology

January 22, 2015

Could you survive without your mobile phone? Cell phones have become incredibly advanced in a relatively short amount of time, and the possibilities for the future are seemingly endless.

In The Beginning

Many of the early cell phones were considered to be “car phones,” as they were too large and cumbersome to carry around in a pocket or purse. However, in 1983, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x arrived on the market. Though huge by today’s standards, it was considered the first truly mobile phone because it was small enough to carry.

The phone, though incredibly expensive, became a pop culture symbol, showing up on everyone from Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, to high school heartbreaker, Zack Morris, in Saved by the Bell.

“You always have the trendsetters who are not afraid of trying new things and then everyone else follows,” says Patricia Grullon, an Industrial Design instructor at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. “These trendsetters are key to make any product popular.”

However, cell phone use hadn’t spread to the general public yet.

“They were primarily used in the sales and business world, but not often for personal use like you see today,” says Kreg Jones, an industrial designer and Industrial Design instructor at The Art Institute of Philadelphia.

Though the DynaTac and subsequent models were smaller, mobile, and ultimately cooler, they still had their faults. Bulky, luggable models like the Nokia Mobira Talkman and the Motorola 2900 Bag Phone had longer battery lives and more talk time, making them more popular at the time. As the technology advanced, cell phone companies figured out how to pack all the features their customers wanted into a smaller, portable, more affordable model.

A Shifting Purpose

Early cell phones were just for talking. Gradually, features like voicemail were added, but the main purpose was talk. Eventually, cell phone manufacturers began to realize that they could integrate other technologies into their phone and expand its features. The earliest smartphones let users access email, and use the phone as a fax machine, pager, and address book.

In recent years, the purpose of the cell phone has shifted from a verbal communication tool to a multimedia tool, often adopting the name “mobile device” rather than being called a phone at all. We now use our cell phones more for surfing the web, checking email, snapping photos, and updating our social media status than actually placing calls.

“Rapidly expanding software titles, better screen resolution, and constantly improved interface make cell phones easier to navigate, and more fun to use. Add to that an expanding capacity that can hold as much memory as a computer would just a few years ago, and you can see why it’s an exploding market,” Grullon says.

The cell phones of today are also replacing our other gadgets, such as cameras and video cameras. When cameras were first introduced on phones, the images were low quality and the feature was considered to just be an extra.

“Now, we're seeing a very fast shift to where consumers don't even bother carrying their point-and-shoot cameras anymore, and just use their cell phones,” says Jamie Lendino, a tech journalist and senior mobile analyst for

Modern day smartphones — the Apple iPhone in particular — changed everything that consumers expect from their phones. The app market has transformed the phone into a virtual toolbox with a solution for almost every need.

Changing Shape

It’s not just the technology of the cell phone that has changed over time, the physical design has also gone through a rollercoaster of changes. Original car phones and bag phones were as large as modern day computers and just as heavy.

“Like computers, the cell phone over time has become drastically smaller,” Jones says. He recalls reviewing focus group results while working with Ericsson GE Mobile in the mid-90s. “Customer research showed that the phone was so small that the user interface was unacceptable. Though the phone may have functioned perfectly well, their opinion was partially driven by the perception that the phone was simply too small.”

Eventually, customers’ perceptions shifted and they demanded a smaller, sleeker cell phone.

Just in recent years, cell phone designs have actually started to become larger and simpler, making room for a larger screen and less buttons. Because phones have become mobile media devices, the most desirable aspect is a large, clear, high-definition screen for optimal web viewing.  Even the keyboard is being taken away, replaced by a touch screen keyboard that only comes out when you need it. The most obvious example of this is the Apple iPhone and subsequent competitors like the Droid models.

Future of the Cell Phone

The cell phone has changed and developed so rapidly in the past decade that it seems as though almost anything you can imagine is possible for the future. According to Jones, the convergence of all our tech gadgets into one mobile device will continue to advance.  He anticipates that “the majority of the hardware and the software can be moved to ‘the cloud’ and the product will mainly be comprised of the input and the display.”

Lendino expects that the smartphone will eventually completely take over the market.

“Within a few more years, I expect regular cell phones to disappear entirely. We may not even call smartphones ‘smart’ anymore and just drop the term altogether, the way we stopped saying ‘color TV’ and ‘hi-fi stereo’,” he says.

Grullon believes that cell phones of the future will be adapted to appeal more to our emotional senses.

“I believe in the future, cell phones will become even more naturally in sync with our biological reflexes and processes such as eye movement, thought processes, kinesthetic, cultural preferences,” she says.

It’s not just about how we will change cell phone, Grullon says.

“The question is, how will the cell phone change us?”

Learn more about our programs.

Get Brochure

Search & Filter

0 Replies to “Life Before Mobile Phones Essay”

Lascia un Commento

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *