Early days of phones tin cans

The Early days of phones, devices and wireless communication

It’s a throwback at the “Me gyina abonten” device. Yes I’m talking about grandpa Motorola phones and the early days of wireless communication.

Days of Wired Telephones

I remember that there was a time when telephone calls were only made at communications centers or phone booths and children played with the ‘konko telephones’. Access to domestic telephones was for the upper and middle classes. Yet we the back bench kids would not be left behind so we invented our own telephone, the ‘konko telephones’ made with tin cans and plastic strings from old plastic weaved nets.

Communication Center Ghana
Communication Center Ghana

Back then, Ghana Telecom’s Phone booths very common in many townships. It was quite a site, long queues of impatient people eager to make their calls with their phone cards. Communication centers were also available for anyone who did not want to go through the phone booth ordeal. Communication centers were privately operated so were much more costly.

Phone Booth Ghana Telecom
Phone Booth Ghana Telecom

This was the world in which we lived. Way before we were used to the telephone, the mobile phone was in town. It was known here as the “Akasanoma” which means parrot or talking bird.

I had heard rumors that the white man had done it again. This time you could call anyone from anywhere without a telephone cable. Even the adults used to debate about the truth of this rumor. We had no idea that this was a new revolution sweeping through the world. As one of the few tech savvy boys and electronics tinkerers in my area (neighborhood), I was very keen on what this mobile phone was.

And It Came! – Wireless (Anolog) Phones

My first experience with cell phones occurred when I was a child in the late 90’s.
Talk about Mr. Asare and his phone! I can still vividly remember how he would stand outside the house to receive and make all his calls. His usual greeting was ‘Hello, Wote me nka? megyina abonten na mere kasa yi oo!’ It’s Twi and can be translated to ‘Hello, do you hear me? I am outdoors as I speak with you’.

Even though the bad network reception then could have been the cause of his shouting, we all knew that he was simply emphasizing the fact that he was not using the cable telephone which is usually indoors but the new magical wireless mobile phone in town. His phone was almost always strapped to his waist when not in use or mostly held. Yes, I guess you have finally remembered those phone Leather Case belt Pouches. It was huge and visible.

Motorola old phone
Motorola old phone

The Mobile Phone

The phone was the classic big and heavy Motorola phone then coined as ‘timber’ due to its size. The antenna was very notable and even retractable. That phone could not be easily pocketed, which was in fact a good inconvenience because it also served as a status symbol. So why at all would anyone want to hide it? It was for the ‘big men’ (the wealthy), then it was rumored to cost about one million old Ghana Cedis (¢1, 000, 000) now GH¢100; funny, I know.

During those days it was a miracle and quite a sight to see someone talking into the ‘air’; talking to ‘void’. Many slowly came to understand that there was someone at the end of the line. The mobile phone caught on quickly, even moreso when Mobitel, the company behind the wireless phone aired their advert. (Speaking adverts, do you remember the Sika Card advert?)

Just owning a mobile phone stayed a status symbol for a long while until many market players arrived. Spacefon now MTN played a key role in the market when they cut the price of SIM cards in half, from Onetouch’s (now Vodafone) 1.2million cedis (GH¢120) to 600,000 cedis (GH¢60). This set the stage for competition and brought more value to subscribers.

The age of Phones

And so it came to pass that the mobile phone became much more affordable and grew to be a lifestyle. Gradually as phones evolved, owning the latest kind became a competition. In those days most of the analogue phones had Monochrome displays or one-color displays commonly called black and white screens. Colored screen phones were the next big thing in town. Then came the MP3 capable phones that had just a few megabytes for one or two songs

Infrared phones connectivity also had its short lived glory(am so glad they did not stick those things were too inefficient and difficult to use). The dawn of Camera phones came followed by “video phones”. Bluetooth connectivity also became the next status symbol for phones kicking infrared away; forever.

Phones became both a public joy and public Nuisance. At public gatherings and events, phone owners could easily record their favorite experiences using their phones, a joy. It later became a nuisance when all phone owners became paparazzi. Almost everyone with a camera phone would be up shooting pictures and videos.

Smart Phones?

Then came the age of smart phones. No, not Samsung and Apple; I mean the age of Nokia’s dominance in the device industry. Nokia’s numerous series made me critical of phone specs. Even 16mb of RAM was a great feat. If you think Samsung releases too many phones, Google Nokia series and be amazed.
Nokia taught me one lesson “never brag about your phone; because a better version will be released tomorrow”.

nokia n series
Nokia N series

Status symbol

Owning and using mobile phones became a status symbol so much that you could literally land a girlfriend when you own one. I mean people were even faking calls (airtime was expensive and even expired in a week) to look more relevant. One experience I had in a public bus was a guy who was supposedly on a call and yet his phone rang. Why? There was a lady he wanted to impress beside him.
Not owning a phone meant you were below social expectation, people could ask if you owned one regardless of whether they did or not.

The age of many, many phones.

Another development that merits mention was the ownership of many phones. Two SIM phones were not available in the market yet so owning more than one phone was the only solution partly due to Telco networks overcharging rates for calls to other networks.
People also took advantage of this opportunity and made it prestigious to own many phones. A new status symbol was formed. Yes, the ‘big men’ held so many phones and strapped so many around their waist. I really felt embarrassed when I saw them, yes I did.

The new age of smartphones

Things have changed since those early days of mobile phones, now simply called phones. It’s the age of apps, android OS, IOS, mobile payments and more. Phones have moved and evolved way past just phone calls and texting. Owning a phone these days is not so much of a status symbol like before, except maybe Apple phones (blackberry died, I mean is dying).
We have moved from just owing a phone to seeking inclusion in virtual social communities, even seeking fame, influence and recognition there.

Smart phones
Smart phones

Enter Air Net Zone

My name is Isaac Adu. Call me Ike Ten. I love to talk tech. I love new trends and new technology yet I appreciate the old days too.
Welcome to Air Net Zone.
Let’s Talk Tech.

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