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10 August, 2014

How smart are Smartphones? #1

Remember a time when we had at least one of these items below? I have a feeling some of us 90's kids would have seen and used some if not all of these. Finding one of them around the house brings back so many fond memories.
By the way, for those who are not familiar with the items above, here is a list:

1. Motorola DynaTAC
One of the first cellular phones made to be lightweight (28oz or 790g) and portable enough for users to make and receive calls on the go. It was such a revolutionary invention at the time that prices could go up to $3995 at 1983 and can be considered a luxury item. This was what most people then called "the Brick phone" or "大哥大".

2. Yellow Pages Phone Books
Poor Arnold had to search through the phone book for Sarah Connor in The Terminator (1984)
If you ever wanted to search for a telephone number and address for the nearest coffee shop or find Sarah Connor's house address, what would you do? Just take out your smartphone and say "OK Google, search for the nearest Starbucks". But before Google, before Siri, you had to flip through the pages of the index of these thick telephone directories to find it. Depending on the country you live in, these phone books come in multiple volumes of a variety of businesses and an alphabetical list of every phone number registered in the country. Nowadays with mobile internet, these books are no longer sold due to waste of large amounts of paper. By the way, anyone remember the phone booth?

3. Britannica Encyclopedia
When I was in primary school, I used to have week long stays with my grandparents during the school holidays. At the end of every stay I always thought of the time spent there was boring but somehow I look forward to the next stay only because I can get my hands on my grandfather's encyclopedia collection. Flipping through the index and searching for random stuff in those dozen volumes was somewhat enjoyable because there were so many interesting articles accompanied by eye-catching illustrations. Later with Microsoft's Encarta on the PC and Wikipedia on the internet, there was no need to reserve a row on the book shelf for these anymore.

4. Sony Betamovie Camcorder
Once upon a time, there were these huge heavy devices with the ability to record precious moments on Betamax videocassette that cost a fortune. Who cares about HD video, 4K video, those were the days when camcorders could only record a maximum of 3.5 hours of blurry videos and the whole family would wait a couple of minutes for the tape to rewind in the VCR to watch them on the TV. Nowadays everyone has a micro camcorder in their pocket that could record high quality videos and could easily share them through social media like Youtube or Facebook in mere seconds. So if you are one of those people who had their birthday party or wedding toast recorded in one of these analog tapes, share this post with your friends....

5. Sony Walkman
No, I am not talking about the Walkman app, CD player or MP3 player. I am referring to the classic compact cassette player that was so portable that youngsters could attach these on their belt and listen to music while they were jogging. A typical cassette tape could play 6-10 songs per side, which sums up to about 60 minutes of music. Some of the more advance Walkman then could even record songs from the radio to blank cassette tapes, a function that was commonly used to create personalized mix-tapes, or what we now call Playlists.
Kyln prison warden listening to Star-Lord's confisticated Walkman in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

6. Motorola Wordline Pager
Flight delayed? John McClane gets a page from Holly in Die Hard 2 (1990)
Beep! Beep! "MOM - JUST A REMINDER, BE HOME BY 12:00"
That was a typical message received by one of those rich kids in school with strict parents. A pager a messaging device now considered the predecessor of the Short Messaging Service (SMS). Years ago pagers had no keyboard, just 2-3 buttons and a display that could show a few lines of text. Initially all pagers could do is make a beeping sound to "page" the user to call he/she back with the nearest payphone. Later pagers included the alphanumeric function which allowed users to read messages and even type a reply message. The equivalent we have now are text messaging and online chatting (WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook messaging, Line....).

You know what all these have in common, they are all obsolete since their functions were incorporated into a device so smart they call it the SMARTPHONE. There are many more in this list, so stay tuned for another "time-capsule" article in


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