A phone a day: Motorola DynaTAC 8800x (1987)

There is little that can be said about this phone that hasn't been said better elsewhere. It is the canonical first generation cell phone. This is a model from 1987 (specifically model F09DSD8826AN, back when what a phone was named or numbered was irrelevant), so it's not among the very first of these transformational mobile phones, those were from the 8000x series starting in 1983, but it's pretty damned close to the beginning, so it's not from the Cambrian Age of phones, but it's certainly from the Silurian at least. Compared the modern digital mobile phones, it's barely even a computer, most of its magic coming not from being a portable networked computer tuned for data--as digital phones were--but from being an incredibly compact, powerful analog radio. It's digital functionality (as I understand) extends to remembering up to 30 phone numbers, using an interface (the keys at the bottom) that was apparently notoriously difficult to use. That no surprise, because the vast majority of the user experience was not in the usability of the keypad, but that you could carry a phone with you. This fact by itself was so important that it dwarfed any other consideration and Motorola was able to manufacture these phones almost unchanged for more than a decade. That's unheard of today, but proof of how incredibly powerful the idea was--and how difficult it must have been to create a competitor. (Oh, and if you really love the design of this phone, you can get a GSM phone that's a nearly identical clone, and doesn't weigh two pounds)


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This page contains a single entry by Mike Kuniavsky published on March 21, 2012 9:30 PM.

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