Cell Phone Fever
When I was a young child, I became separated from my parents at Costco and I did not know where they were. I cried out in a blind panic and ran through every isle until I finally found my parents. It felt like an eternity. Now, all I need to do is take out my cell phone and call them. My parents will simply tell me where I am supposed to find them, and life continues peacefully. There is no heart sinking moment or feeling of terror. But this is just one thing that the modern cell phone can do. It does a great deal for individuals on a daily basis and for society as a whole. The rise of the cellular phone, including the smart phone, has been sudden and it has become almost necessary to have a phone to function in today’s society. While many young people feel like the cell phone has always existed, they do not realize that it is only a recent development in technology that is becoming more popular every year.
There are many people who are currently alive that remember a time when there were no cellular phones. On April 3, 1973 the first ever cell phone was flamboyantly made public when the creator and designer, Martin Cooper, made the first call. At the time he was the senior engineer at Motorola and his first call was to a rival telecommunications company, telling them he was talking over a mobile phone. However, it was not the small pocket-sized device people love today. It weighed 1.1 kilograms and was able to give 30 minutes of call time on a charge. The first production cell phone, the Motorola Dyna TAC 8000X was released in 1983, for 3995 dollars, making it exclusively for the wealthy. Cellular phone technology improved through the rest of the 1980s and 1990s. These more advanced cell phones were smaller, had complex displays, and longer lasting batteries. In 1997, Nokia released the 6110 model, which was one of the first consumer cell phones. It included a clock, a calendar, and a calculator. Apple released the revolutionary iPhone in 2007, which combined three devices, a cellular phone, mobile media player and internet browser into one (Goodwin 2017). This sparked the development of smartphones and their widespread adoption by the public. The first cell phones were invented to make people’s lives easier and to let people talk to others from anywhere on the globe. Over the last few decades they have evolved and changed, becoming better communication devices. Cell phones then began doing more, essentially becoming mobile computers. Now, everyone has the knowledge of the world in their pockets.
The modern smartphone is an extremely complicated device, but its foundational feature, cellular communication, is not very complex. Cell phones can be considered to be a type of two-way radio. A cell phone must have a radio transmitter and a radio receiver. The transmitter converts the sound it hears into a set of electrical signals, which are then converted into radio waves and sent to a cell tower. The cell tower then relays the radio waves to the second person’s cell phone where the receiver on that device converts the radio waves into electrical signals. The speakers on the device turn the electrical signals into sound (Wang 2014). All older cell phones used this method of communication, and modern cell phones build on that basic system. Cell phones have increased in complexity in recent years and many people do not understand how cellular communication works, even though they use the system every day.
Recently, the number of cell phone owners around the world has been increasing. In 2002, 62% of American adults owned cellular phones and by January of 2018, 95% of American adults owned a cell phone. Of those who currently own cell phones, 77% of adults own smartphones and 17% own regular cell phones. In 2018, 28% of 18 to 29 year-olds are dependent on smartphones (Pew Research Center 2018). The diffusion of mobile phones has been sudden and the technology has spread to every corner of the globe. People are becoming more dependent on them for communication and business than ever before.
The cell phone is a facet of everyday life and it has become more common in the last few years. To many, it feels like the cell phone has always existed and they cannot imagine life without it. People own and use cell phones and smartphones without giving the technology or its effects a second thought. The cell phone has done many good things for society, improving communication, speeding overseas trade, and connecting distant people. However, some think the cell phone is destroying the everyday flow of our lives. Jacqueline Leo believes, One call on your cell phone, one tweet, one instant message can destroy your schedule, forcing you to move meetings, or blow off really important things, like love and friendship (2011).
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