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Speaking of Precision

Speaking of Precision is a knowledge preservation and thought leadership blog covering the precision machining industry, its materials and services. With over 36 years of hands on experience in steelmaking, manufacturing, quality, and management, Miles Free (Milo) Director of Industry Research and Technology at PMPA helps answer "How?" "With what?" and occasionally "Really?"

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3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

Posted April 26, 2013 12:00 AM by Milo
Pathfinder Tags: mobile phones

It has been 40 years since Motorola engineer Marty Cooper called a colleague at a rival company from his "real cellular phone."

That was 1983. 40 years ago.

In 1983, I was learning to program in BASIC on a Commodore 64 Computer. Gasoline was $1.24 a gallon, and a postage stamp cost just 20 cents.

In 1983 I was renting my landline phone from the monopoly phone company. It had a rotary dial. It was tied to the wall by a cord. It weighed about 9 pounds. It was my choice of black.

(To be fair, I could have selected a white or pink trimline phone for an added fee.)

Here are three lessons that I have learned from the mobile phone:

1. The mobile phone changed the paradigm- that phone numbers had to be associated with a place or location, rather than an individual. This change to the service being tied to an individual rather than just a build out as infrastructure was a powerful force in the market. Today 6 billion people have mobile phones. There are 7 billion people on the planet.

2. Technology always improves over time. Getting smaller, and more powerful, and including more features. This means that when we purchase technology, we need to consider that its utility will indeed be for a limited time. Newer and improved models will make today's investment non competitive. So estimating useful life and cost over that time period is essential. The product cycle cannot be denied.

3. Technology will be initially adopted by business, but ultimately will find its highest and best use enabling consumers. Business adoption is a necessary step to create a sustainable ecosystem for the technology. The discipline of ROI, costs and benefits provide a darwinian gauntlet that prepares the industry for its next expansion round into the consumer markets. But first, utility and benefits have to be demonstrated.

In 1983 my phone did not take photos. High-Def movies. or allow me to play games with friends or do calculations or write notes or …

Nor did I expect it to!

What a difference 40 years has made!

That is why wise businessmen stay up on new and emerging technologies.

New and emerging technologies change the world.

Don't believe me?

Just call any of the 6 billion other folks on the planet with their own mobile phone.

Marty Cooper BBC

iPhone 5

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank Milo for sharing this blog entry, which originally appeared here.

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#1

Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/26/2013 2:04 AM

"That was 1983. 40 years ago." ???

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/26/2013 5:23 AM

My phone has a calculator too!

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/26/2013 7:56 AM

....... just a sec John Let me get my phone out and crunch the numbers on that......

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#4

Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/26/2013 8:48 AM

I love these news articles from the future. Any chance we can get some stock market tips for 2023?

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#5

Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/26/2013 11:31 AM

In 1973, a gallon of gasoline was about forty cents ($0.40 USD).

In 1973, a postage stamp of 8 cents ($0.08 USD) would send an envelope.

In 1973, on 3 April, Marty Cooper made the first real cellular phone call to his rival, Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/26/2013 11:48 AM

Thanks Guys, Yes, I know I had the date scrambled.

Appreciate your gentle comments.

Milo

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/26/2013 11:50 AM

While a typographical error was in play, the 4 lessons are still valid.

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#8
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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/26/2013 2:06 PM

If you ever expect to get to cover the big stories you're going to have to put more effort into these fluff pieces.....mngmnt

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/26/2013 2:14 PM

Well thankeee.

Milo

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/27/2013 1:02 AM

The Commodore 64 was around 1983. In '73, you probably didn't even have an electronic calculator...

Although there may well have been 6 billion cellphones manufactured to date, I doubt if there are that many actually in service right now. I think I'm using my 5th cellphone now, and I know several people who have updated theirs much more frequently than I have. I can't begin to believe that 6 out of 7 individuals on the entire planet have cell phones. Since roughly 1 out of 7 people are younger than 10 years old, that would indicate that every teenager and adult everywhere has a cellphone.

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/27/2013 6:58 AM

I'll beg to differ on the date of calculators. I recall a mate getting one (not Sinclair) with a horrible big red display. After a few minutes doing calculations, we all started playing tio see who could spell the best naughty word with it held upside down. It made a point - our slide-rules were going to be very soon consigned to the bin. Couple of years later, and that piece of 'junk' (it could only do those most basic operations) was available in-store for a fraction of the price and it could do much more (hey, chuck those books of log tables etc). Same time, a basic 'on yer desk computer could be had. In the space of 5 years (early 70's>>>>) the world changed.

I've now forgotten Milo's OP (), but where are mobile phones going ? From a 'brick' that did pretty much what it said on the box, to some all-capable gadget. Do we really need this ? A mobile/cell phone can now do an amazing array of functions. Is that humble cellphone now become the indispensable gadget we must all have ? We can use it for anything on the internet, banking, ID, tracking, the list goes on. Has the security around such things kept pace (I could easily piggyback any of several local wireless signals from other peoples unprotected devices). Severe risk of OT unless I read Milo's original post again, so I'll leave it at that for now. The question/point might just as validly be - ' mobile phone - saint or sinner'.

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/27/2013 7:12 AM

I have a calculator from 1973. It is a Sumlock Anita and cost around £20 (without memory, that was an extra £5). It still works. My mum worked in the factory in Portsmouth. The Sinclair calculator arrived a year or two later.

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/27/2013 7:41 AM

Cool . There are so many gadgets that I wish I'd kept from the era. Even now, old computers get stashed in the loft - they still work, and most could even connect to the internet (albeit rather badly). Some of that electronic stuff from the seventies is worth good money. With car-boot sale season upon us, it's worth checking and looking for some of the rarer game consoll stuff. Same goes for mobile phones.

I don't know how it was where you are, not far away, but Sinclair certainly seemed to rock the world for us Brits. I wish I's got one of those cars ! Same story with the 'Bond-bug' car (had some hilarious rides witha mate who had one).

I'll go OT because this is outside MIlo's OP, but it's huge fun to hear people's memory of that time. I had a Sinclair computer, and also a 'beeb'. In many ways they were more fun than using the Uni mainframe, and I recall writing some (pretty lousy games) for my younger siblings on them. Happy days. If only I had known then what I do know. WFWG was my first time playing on the internet(prior to that it was intranet between various academic places), and I shamelessly miss Win 98.

As said, I'll post OT - I like Milo's blogs, and fear myself in gross danger of going nostalic OT. Very cool to hear your memory of the era.

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/27/2013 4:36 PM

You are quite right, we are OT from Milo's blog.

Perhaps you should launch a new thread: "Gadgets I have owned, and wish I still had"! Or has it already been done?)

It is quite strange for me that I should have got this calculator in the first place. It was not particularly useful, neither at school nor at home. I have never been a technophile that has to have the latest gadget (in fact, I was playing about with valve radios and radiograms at the time. I wish I still had some of them!!), so I probably only bought the damn thing because my mum was working there, and I got a discount, and I had £20 kicking around, and I was basically just fascinated (I was also fascinated by the Sinclair calculators and computers, and remember the first time someone brought the Sinclair calculator to school).

I also happen to have one of the first LED digital watches, I think I got it in 1975 or 1976, made in Britain, probably worth a bit now. Again, I don't know why I got it. I was never particularly fond of it, and haven't worn a watch in years, and if I did, it would be an antique mechanical pocket watch. Perhaps I was again fascinated by the technology? This was a common theme in the 60s/70s.

In fact, it was a common theme at the time that the technology was there, and it was very fascinating, but was it really of that much use? I remember the early Sinclair and Commodore computers (64k memory, wow!!!) and remember messing around on them, but they never did anything practical for me. I remember my sister's BBC computer, and loading data via cassette tape, but I don't remember it being particularly useful. Around this time I also remember doing computer simulations(at university) of engineering situations (eg steering characteristics of a supertanker) and found that this could be achieved in a two hour session on the analogue computer (yes, analogue, yippee!), but took two weeks on the digital computers.

It is very easy for people of a certain age (I, of course, am still very young, and wield a deft hockey stick to prove it!) to poo poo the relative merits of modern technology, and latest developments compared with how things were (and went) before. I still get a warm glow from anything associated with the period between the 1920s and 1970s (especially single-malt!) in Europe in particular. But I find the latest developments in computer and phone technology far more useful, and the latest developments in eastern-manufactured musical instruments/audio/hi-fi etc. equally as fascinating as (and more accessible than) what I encountered in the 1970s.

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/28/2013 12:22 AM

Now that I've had time to think about it, The 78 I had associated with my first calculator was its price(US$), not the year. I still have that calculator (TI, +_*/and Memory, LED display) and the last time I tried it (less than a year ago), it still functioned correctly. Every LED element still worked. I must have gotten it around '75...

I still have five or six slide rules, and of course they still work, but it is much more difficult to read them than it was in the'60s.

I did indeed start teaching computer science in 1978, on 3 Ohio Scientific Challenger computers, each with 4kB of RAM. It cost $70 for the memory chips to upgrade to 8kB, and I had to solder sockets on the board to accept them...

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/28/2013 4:16 AM

...they still work

Holzfella just had me chuckling with fond memories of days gone by - that's just finished me off !

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/28/2013 7:31 PM
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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/28/2013 2:15 AM

...that would indicate that every teenager and adult everywhere has a cellphone...

That's the way it looks in these parts.

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/30/2013 5:57 AM

<..probably didn't even have an electronic calculator...>

Ah. So that's what those log tables and slide rules are for...

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Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/30/2013 6:38 AM

"'put your phone away and get on with your life' app"
I like that!
Why doesn't someone develop a 'Let's use the phone to talk to someone' app? My kids wouldn't believe you could do that with a mobile!

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#21

Re: 3 Lessons from the Mobile Phone

04/30/2013 7:40 AM

About 2 years ago, a meet a friend I haven't seen in 30 years, and we were talking about times gone past.

(30 years ago), I would call her and we would talk for hours. Anyways as we were talking we reminisce, she told me the best part what she enjoyed was going to the mail box and finding a letter from me. And it was the same for me.

And that is when I realize the value of a personal investment in communications.

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