This guest post is written by Olga Grigorenko, a freelance writer for Fueled.
We can all remember the days when we memorized our friends’ numbers, carefully recorded new contacts in address books, and coquettishly wrote down our digits on party napkins. Telephones were lifelines and phone calls were indispensable. But then mobile phones happened, and our means of communication changed drastically. Exchanging contact information became far more simplified and reaching anyone over the phone became significantly easier. Phone calls could now be made on the go – anywhere, anytime.
In 1970, mobile phones were installed into cars and just three years later, Motorola produced the first handheld mobile phone. The network of wireless towers built to service these mobile phones was arranged in what was called a cellular layout, due to its close resemblance to a biological cell. Mobile phones used on this cellular network were soon simply called cellular phones; while cellular and mobile are not technically synonymous, they’ve become completely interchangeable in the common vernacular.
Since then, wireless phones have developed into devices more comparable to computers than telephones, a factor evident not only in their capabilities, but in our usage of them. Mobile phones are now used for taking pictures, sending emails, using apps, and listening to music. So when exactly did we stop using our mobile devices as phones and why is it that we still call them phones?
The fact of the matter is that the ways in which we communicate with each other have changed, and our mobile phones have changed accordingly. Physical phone calls occur less often because they limit us to one task at a time, while texting allows us the freedom to simultaneously listen to music, draft a work email, and also post on Instagram.
Still, all of these advanced capabilities were added onto the cell phone, and not vice versa. This perhaps, is the only reason we still call our mobile devices cell phones, and it’s very likely that this may change in the future. There are many other phrases that have managed to outlive their literal meaning. We type but not on typewriters; we rewind things that weren’t unwound; we listen to internet radio that doesn’t run on radio waves; we CC (Carbon Copy) people on emails when there’s no carbon paper on our desks. So the question arises: what exactly should we be calling these devices that we carelessly carry around in our pockets?
In a few decades, what we now call phones will be able to execute amazing feats – like supporting photorealistic games, or substituting personalized med packs. As these devices and our use of them continue to evolve, so will our terminology for them. There is no doubt that the ways in which we communicate with each other will continue to change, but our essential human need for communication and contact will remain the same.
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About the Author
Olga Grigorenko is a writer, painter and aspirational dog-owner born and raised in New York City. When she is not busy with work and life in the environs of her Brooklyn home, Olga tends to her wanderlust by exploring as much of the world as possible.
Image of girl using iPhone courtesy of Kaboompics.