How Mobile Phones Changed Our Relationship With The Telephone

Post date: Jul 30, 2015 4:00:21 PM

  • Before the telephone became mobile, in most cases a telephone number represented a place, rather than a person. The mobile phone significantly altered that. Much in the way that the personal computer came to represent a person rather than a terminal, the mobile phone made the telephone personal. Here are some cultural examples of that:In an office setting, when you dialed an extension, you were calling a desk, not necessarily a person. Prior to the invention of voicemail it was (and to a certain extent still is) acceptable to answer a ringing telephone at a desk that wasn't yours. Compare that to answering another person's mobile phone today.
  • Telephone operators used to make a distinction between calling a destination and calling a specific person. Calls could be placed either Station To Station or Person to Person.
  • Telephone numbers were assigned based on geography. In addition to the Area Code, the local exchange prefix also used to indicate which neighborhood a number originated from. Today it's primarily an indicator for which company issued the number.

Not only did the mobile phone make our relationship with the telephone more personal, the invention of SMS and MMS served to blur the line between the telephone and the personal computer. In the years before SMS, communication by text almost exclusively the domain of computers thanks to email and instant messaging. Also, in the years before instant messaging and VOIP, voice communication was almost exclusively the domain of the telephone. When the mobile phone became able to send text and images easily, and when the computer became able to send and receive voice easily, this line that separated the phone and computer was virtually erased.This was an important event, because it set the stage for the predicament that we as consumers find ourselves in. We're in a market where the computer, the tablet, and the mobile phone basically do the same thing, yet they are packaged and sold to us as completely separate devices backed by services with vastly different pricing structures. In other words, your computer is supposed to use broadband and your mobile is supposed to use a separate voice and data plan, and they will never replace eachother.

This does little to take into account our personal preferences for the devices and applications that we prefer to use when we communicate, let alone our desire to isolate communications between our personal, professional, and crime-fighting lives. Mobile phones are great, they are super convenient, and they do wonders for keeping us connected to our various networks, but squinting at my smartphone while sitting in front of a PC with 3 monitors and a 104 key keyboard just seems like a waste.