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Cellular Radio Telephones: Then and Now

b2ap3_thumbnail_oldcell400Can you remember a world without cell phones? The thought of such a thing nowadays makes teenagers shudder in fear at the notion of face-to-face communication with other humans! Once upon a time in the 1980s, cell phones entered the market and changed everything. Here’s a television ad that describes the selling points of cellular radio telephones.

Selling Point #1: It’s a Booming Industry
“Those who think getting a car phone is not for them, whatever the reason, haven’t kept up with the booming industry of cellular radio telephones.” If the cell phone industry was booming back in the 1980s, it has been surpassed by the incredible boom today. When this ad was created, it boasted that “a few thousand” people owned cell phones. In 2012 alone, over 1.5 million cell phones were sold worldwide. Today, Americans who don’t own a cell phone are the minority. A recent study by the Pew Research Center revealed that 91% of American adults own a cellphone, and 56% of American adults own smartphones; a figure that has quickly increasing in 2013.

In the 1980s, the biggest reason for people not owning cellphones was because they had yet to see their value and everyday application. Today, the 9% of American adults who don’t own cell phones attribute their choice to both the lack of cell reception in the rural areas that they live, and the unfriendly costs of a coverage plan.

Selling Point #2: They’re Super Cheap
Another deterrent of the choice to purchase a cell phone in the ’80s, and today, is the cost of the phone itself. Today, we should consider ourselves fortunate to be in the under-$200 range for new devices (in many cases, devices are free with a service contract). This old Radio Shack commercial from 1987 is selling a “totally portable phone at a price we dare the competition to beat”. As the price shows, we stare in disbelief; $2,495!

Selling Point #3: Everyone’s Doing It
As the ad shows footage of people using cell phones at work and in their cars, it proclaims, “scenes like this are becoming commonplace in US cities where cellular is still available today.” Maybe you can remember the first time you saw somebody using a cell phone. It was quite a strange sight; reminiscent of a science-fiction movie. Today, it’s almost the opposite; most people, in private and public scenarios, are glued to their cellphones, making a technology-less person an oddball.

Selling Point #4: They’re Lightweight
“Finding a phone in a car is not that unusual anymore, except when it leaves the car.” This ad boasts the super light weight of the cell phone: only 30 ounces! That’s just under 2 pounds. It’s like carrying a pineapple around with you all day long. Many early models would also require users to carry signal boosters, adding to the weight and awkward shape. Today, the average cellphone weighs around 100 grams (about the weight of a medium-sized tomato) and fits inside of our pockets.

It’s evident that the selling points put forth by this ad are a bit ironic compared to today’s standards. Today’s cell phone industry is doing tremendously better. Our cellphones are cheaper, they’re more widely used, and they’re lighter and thinner. We can still certainly appreciate the humor, the visionary ideas mentioned in this ad, and the fact that we’ve come such a long way in the last 30 years. Way to go, humanity!