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A smooth operator

The mobile phone has just turned 40. The device, however, is showing no signs of a midlife crisis.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2013, 22:03 IST
Hindustan Times

The mobile phone is 40 years old, or maybe one could say, 40 years young. And it has much to celebrate: in the last four decades, mobile technology has taken a giant leap from "monster handsets to pocket-sized phones", some of which are actually more like hand-held computers.

The story began 40 years ago when Martin Cooper, the former Motorola vice-president and division manager, made the first call on the company's DynaTAC phone while standing in front of New York's Hilton.

And who did he call? The head of research at Bell Labs, a company that also was trying to build the first cellphone.

Talk about pressing the right buttons! But calling is not the only thing users do with a phone today: they use it to browse the internet, order food, and play games. You name it, and the technology has it.

After mobile technology was introduced, the first decade was spent on research and then it was rapidly followed by analogue networks. Then came the digital decade when consumerisation and globalisation pushed the mobile story. Then came another one with data adoption and with the arrival of 3G; smartphones have become a hot choice with users.

Despite such giant strides, the story is not over: smartphones are getting better and living true to its name, smarter.

In India, the technology has been a success story since the time it was introduced thanks to the low-density of landlines and also the freedom a mobile gives to its users. Today, it is touted as the biggest success story of India's reform programme.

The popularity of mobiles is such that according a United Nations report, a far greater number of Indians have access to cellphones than to toilet and basic sanitation. Now that report is nothing to gloat about but in a very narrow way, it shows how user-friendly and necessary the technology has become.

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