Did you know more people in the world have mobile phones than toilets? It is true. Can you imagine a life without your cellphone? Would you survive without your cellphone? Many of us would think we can’t survive without them. But people in the past were able to live without cellphones why wouldn’t we be able to? Is it because cellphones were created as an extension of humans? Were they changed over time to adjust to humans?
Cellphones have a long history and to explore the connection between cellphones and humans, I have decided to relate it to my parents. The reason why I am choosing my parents is because I believe they can give a relatable story on cellphones. Unlike many people from my generation, my parents did not always had a cellphone. Even when the concept of cellphones existed, they didn’t have the money to afford it. So how did they contact people? They would use public phones and write letters. By the time I was a little kid, my parents had a cellphone. In the beginning, even though cellphones had the capacity of adding contacts, my parent would rarely use it. They still memorized many phone numbers and would dial it manually. Over time, my parents learn to use the basic functions added to a cellphone. The main function they would use is contacts. Now, they didn’t have to memorize that many phone numbers nor carry a small phone book with them. It wasn’t necessary for them. The change from a cellphone to smartphone made my parents’ life easier in terms of carrying extra technology. They still didn’t use their phone fully even though it was a smartphone. They used it to call people, take pictures, record videos, and listen to music. They didn’t have to carry a camera, a video recorder, and a music player anymore. They were satisfied with that for a while. During my senior year in high school, I already had plans on going to a school out of state. Because my parents saw the convenience of FaceTime, they decided to buy an iPad for my mom. The reasoning behind it was for my parents to be able to “see” me while I was in college. During that time, I downloaded an app called WeChat on my mom’s iPad. I told her that she could leave me voice messages since we couldn’t text each other because of language barrier. My mom would use it from time to time. She wasn’t always using it. In contrast, my dad who was in Mexico at the time, started using WeChat too. The difference, he used it 24/7. And that is how cellphones changed for my parents. They went from not using it in the past to now not being able to put down their phone during dinner.
From the beginning until now, cellphones have evolved but those changes complemented our lifestyle. Looking at my parents, the lifestyle they had in the beginning and now are different. They were busy almost the whole day so cellphones weren’t a necessity for them. They were in one place for most of the day and could use the restaurant phone. Now, cellphones are a necessity for them because they travel a lot now. But that is just one case and it doesn’t completely explains how phones are an extension of humans. To further explore the relation of cellphones and humans, we have to look at the history of cellphones.
The very first cellphones that were known as car phones were invented in 1956. They were too big to hold that people had it in their cars. With disputes and upgrades over signals and frequencies by 1971, AT&T became the first company to come up with a system in which modern phones use. In 1973, Motorola invented the first cellphone, the Motorola DynaTAC, which looks similar to present cellphones. The cellphone was invented by Dr. Martin Cooper (Keith). Then by 1983, the phone is upgraded to the DynaTAC 8000x. Although the cellphone is huge compared to our cellphones now a days. It was the first cellphone that was considered small and portable back in the days. The DynaTAC was expensive when it first came out. Only few could afford it and it was only used in the business and sales world. The cellphone quickly became shown in many different media such as movies like Wall Street and television shows like Saved by the Bell. As more upgrades to the phone came along over time, the cellphones became smaller and more portable (Ray).
The appearance of the cellphone has change greatly over time. The DynaTAC was really big. It was like holding a brick. It had the numbers and dial buttons. It didn’t have a screen. It was similar to many house phones nowadays but bigger and without a screen. Then by 1989, the Micro TAC was introduced as a personal telephone. Although it was expensive, it wasn’t just limited to people in the business and sales world. The Micro TAC was a lot smaller compared to the DynaTAC. It had an antenna and flip case to protect the number buttons. The Micro TAC added more buttons to the phone. In pop culture, the Micro TAC was used in the Star Trek series. In 1997, cellphones had a big upgrade with the invention of the internet. The Synergy by Philips Consumer Communications introduced the many other features now seen in our cellphones. It was the first cellphone to have a screen that was “touch screen” and used wireless connection. It used wireless to connect to e-mail, internet, and faxes. It has change the purpose of cellphones by adding new features other than calling. By 2002, texting became a popular thing to do that T-Mobile introduce the Sidekick. The Sidekick has a screen that flip out and a full QWERTY keyboard for faster texting. The Sidekick had features that built the current cellphones. It had apps, games, a camera, and access to the internet. In 2007, the very first iPhone was introduced to the market. The iPhone wasn’t just a cellphone anymore, it was a smart phone. It was fully touchscreen with apps, camera, and music player. The appearance and system of the cellphone started as big and simple. The very first cellphones were big and just had one function, calling and talking to others (Washington Post). Over time, cellphones became smaller and smaller so it would be easier to carry. The system of the cellphone became more and more complex. Functions were slowly added to cellphones and now cellphones have become like our personal assistant.
With the physical and systematic changes in cellphones, did the purpose of cellphones shift into another direction? The main purpose of cellphones in the past and even now is to talk. Cellphones were invented so people could call others no matter where they were. Although the purpose of a cellphone might still be to call someone else, other purposes have been added over the evolution of cellphones. Present cellphones allow people to not just only call others but it offers a way for humans to interact and communicate with others through not only phone calls but apps and functions. In other words, the purpose of cellphones has shifted to communicate. Other than the basic functions such as making a call and sending a text message, current phones are smartphones. Applications can be downloaded to fit anyone’s lifestyle. For example, Samsung phones have added a new feature called S Health where it counts how many steps per day you walk and also it can check your pulse. Nowadays, people are so busy that they don’t have the time to always exercise. Because of that, they can try to increase their steps per day. Which is something even busy people can easily change by using stairs instead of elevator and parking at a farther location. Another function that is now helpful for our current lifestyle are reminders functions and applications. Alarms on cellphones have been able to replace physical alarm clocks. Other applications can be used for as reminders for upcoming deadlines and work schedule. Another example is the addition of email. Email was created to adapt to people’s lifestyle. Many businessmen needed to check their email to contact and communicate with other businesses. Slowing email wasn’t just used by professionals and businessmen. Now, email it is used by almost everyone which is why it is very convenient to have it linked to our cellphones. We are able to access it even when we are not around a computer. Email being linked to our cellphones have decreases the usage of regular mail. Many business prefer to send out an email to customers because it will be easier for them to access it and possibly use it when they are at their store without needing to bring a physical paper or coupons. Although the new features and applications are changes to fit our lifestyle it is also because we dislike talking on the phone. From Alone Together, “Teenagers avoid making telephone calls, fearful that they “reveal too much”. They rather text than talk. Adults, too, choose keyboards over the human voice”. (Turkle, 11). This shows that it isn’t just the lifestyle but also our likes and dislikes that matter.
Cellphones have been helpful over time. There are many advantages of cellphones. Cellphones have become like our personal assistant. Cellphones make our lives easier by storing information so we don’t have to memorize it such as phone numbers. One can set reminders and alarms for deadlines and activities. It allows people to communicate with friends and family whether it is through phone calls, social media, or text message. Being able to carry a cellphone anywhere you go is also helpful in case of an emergency. Although cellphones have many advantages and were created for us, there are disadvantages when technology improves. Cellphones or smartphones have so many capabilities that we forget about real human interactions. People can go on dates and they would have their phone with them and check social media when they can have a real interaction. Sherry Turkle mentions that social media is there to help us connect and it is a good thing but because we are so focused on the content we see on our screen, we tend to forget to have a real conversation and interaction. We are together by keeping each other updated with technology but we aren’t really together. That’s why we are together alone. As it is mentioned in her book Alone Together, “Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of a friendship” (Turkle, 1). It shows that we like that we get to pick and choose what we want using technology. Cellphones have also caused serious accidents that are fatal. Many tend to use their cellphones when they are driving which has caused serious accidents. They are so focused on checking that text message or notification from a social media that they don’t pay attention to the road and cause accidents.
As it can be seen cellphones have change a lot over time. How does the changes correlate to humans? It isn’t a surprise that over time humans have become more complex and busy. Our duties have become more complicated than ever just like cellphones. The very first cellphones were simple. All it was able to do was make a phone call. Now cellphones are able to multitask by storing data, making calls, connect to the internet, and notify one about different news and weather. In the beginning humans had one task, to survive. Now humans not only have to survive but also work, go to school, make money and etc. Humans have become more complex and smarter over time. Because humans have become more complex and smarter, our cellphones have also become more complicated and smarter. Cellphones are an extension of humans. Just like McLuhan mentions “All media are extensions of some human faculty – psychic or physical” (McLuhan, 26). For example, “the book is an extension of the eye” (McLuhan, 34-37) and “electric circuitry, an extension of the central nervous system” (McLuhan, 40). Similarly to the comparison McLuhan makes, we can infer that cellphones are an extension of humans. When you combine all the features cellphones has right now, we can see how it is an extension of us. The camera in the cellphone is an extension of our eyes. The recorder and music player is an extension of our ears. The speaker is an extension of our mouth. The memory space inside of a cellphone is like our brain. It stores different things whether they are things we can see or internal codes to make the cellphone work. The internal codes are like our organs, they work together to make the cellphone work as a whole. An example of how a cellphone might work as a whole is recording a video. It requires the camera/lenses to capture the picture. Which is like our eyes. Then while recording the video it is also recording the sounds. That part is like our ears. We listen to our surroundings. Then when the video is stored and when it is played back, it is like our brain memorizing a moment and recalling it.
Since cellphones have become a part of us or at least an extension of us, does the functions and capabilities of cellphones meet our needs? As our lives become more and more busy cellphones are there to make those busy schedule not seem as bad. We can organize our schedule into calendars, alarms, and reminders. In that sense, cellphone do meet our needs but because we are constantly thinking of new ways and ideas cellphones can met our needs even more. Because we are experimenting with different technology and making technology advance at a really fast rate it isn’t surprising that cellphones will be improve even more in the future. Although I can’t say that I have a solid idea of the future of cellphones, no doubt those changes will be made to meet our needs and make our lives easier. Improvements to intelligent personal assistants such as Cortana and Siri will be made. Those personal assistants will become smarter in understanding you. Some other changes that connect cellphones to humans even more are that cellphones will become smarter at syncing with our biological reflexes such as our eyes movements, thoughts, cultural and social preferences.
Cellphones have change greatly in the little time it has existed. Those changes wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the changes in humans. Humans becoming more complicated and smarter enable changes in cellphones to make our life easier. Different functions and applications are an extension of a different body part. It aid us when need it. We can use our brain to memorize more important things. In conclusion, cellphones as a whole is an extension of humans and the changes in purpose and function were created to adjust to the human life.
(1). Keith, Robert D. “The Cell Phone Timeline.” History of the Cell Phone. University of Florida. 2004. Web. 28 April 2015. <http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall04/keith/history1.htm
(2). McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium is the Massage, an Inventory of Effects. California. Gingko Press Inc. 2001. Web
(3). Ray, Amanda. “The History And Evolution Of Cell Phones.” AI Blog. Art Institutes. N.d Web. 28 April 2015. <http://new.artinstitutes.edu/blog/the-history-and-evolution-of-cell-phones
(4). Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together. New York. BASIC BOOKS. 2011. Web
(5). Washington Post Staff. “The History of the Mobile Phone.” The Switch. The Washington Post. 9 September 2014. Web. 29 March 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/09/09/the-history-of-the-mobile-phone/