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The mobile in society

Woman using early cellphone, 1988

Always available

When mobiles first arrived they were seen as the toys for the yuppie generation most likely due to their high cost. Now people consider them as a vital extension to their business and social life. Whilst old mobiles were bulky today's mobiles are small enough to slip in a pocket or bag yet people can be seen holding them so they can respond in an instant to a call or text message.

Being in easy contactable has blurred the boundary between work and leisure. Before mobiles people stopped doing work when they left the office. Now people can be available 24 hours per day and with access to email via mobile phones being easily achieved can even take their offices with them. Though this may be seen as a way of increasing productivity, it may be that others see the erosion of a personal life as the wrong way to go.

Mobiles - the modern toy

It's good to text

It is remarkable that text messaging (SMS) started out almost as an afterthought. Using spare capacity on the GSM network messages of 160 characters could be sent between mobiles. First demonstrated in 1992 by Vodafone it was slow to get going because it wasn't until 1999 that messages could be sent from one network to another. Now, it is estimated that across the world nearly 200,000 text messages are sent every second.

Text messages costs a fixed amount per texte or more often than not are part of an inclusive package with mobile phone contracts. This led to texting becoming very popular, especially for the young on pay as you go mobiles.

People can often be seen texting whilst on a bus or train, often carrying on multiple conversations at the same time. From a social point of view it is more worrying that people seem to want to text people rather than talk to the people they are actually with.

It may be that the one to one nature of texting has peaked. Smartphones with access to the internet allow access people to broadcast to groups of follows in one go by using social media like Twitter.

Workman on mobile phone

Mobiles and emergencies

Before mobiles became available access to the emergency service, whilst away from home, usually meant running to the nearest telephone kiosk. After a number of technical problems were solved the UK opened up the 999 emergency number to the early cellular networks.

Mobile phone calls make up 62 per cent of all 999s calls answered by UK emergency operators.

In the UK the cellular network passes the mobile base station number to the emergency operator to help locate the caller. It is possible to triangulate the caller using more than one base station and this facility is available in some countries.

Mobile phones bouncing around in pockets and handbags are often the cause of false calls to 999 as many mobiles allow access to 999 and the European 112 emergency number even when the mobile is locked.

Motoring associations in the UK, like the RAC and AA, used to provide their own telephone kiosks for member to use in the case of emergency but as mobiles became popular their use declined and have now all been removed.

Radio journalist - reporting from the spot : Jane Soole

Jane Soole, is a radio broadcaster. As a young girl the phone never featured in her life however by the time she began broadcasting the phone was an essential part of her equipment

She talks about how she uses the phone to voice her reports for local radio and how mobile phones mean you can send in reports without leaving the scene.

audio clip


I would write my stories and voice them down the telephone. The newsreader would say read the introduction down in Bournemouth then I'd come on air but I would do it down the telephone. Say doing a major emergency like a train fire as we had in the Taunton area, I could do everything, I could do report after report into the one o'clock news, two o'clock news, three o'clock news; a fresh one every time. I didn't have to leave the scene.

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