Going Mobile

Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, 2011

Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, 2011

Demonstrators demanding social and political change in Egypt used social media to know where and when to show up. Mimeographed protest announcements were long gone.

Photography by Ramy Raoof

As technology went digital, American’s information devices became more mobile. Immediate access to everything helped spawn a social media revolution, gave consumers greater choices, and sped up business. Some loved being connected, but others worried that they could never escape work or surveillance.

Map of St. Louis, 1989

Map of St. Louis, 1989

Before the digital revolution, people got driving directions from paper maps.

Magellan GPS receiver labeled in Arabic, 1992

Global Positioning System (GPS) devices triangulate accurate positions using signals from a set of earth-orbiting satellites. The system is run by the U.S. military.

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Prisoner ankle bracelet, about 1990

Authorities monitored the location of prisoners by equipping them with GPS (Global Positioning System) devices and small radio transmitters.

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Powerbook G3 laptop computer, about 2000

Photojournalist Pete Souza used a digital camera, this laptop computer, and a satellite phone to write stories and transmit images from Afghanistan to the U.S.

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“Fleeing the Taliban,” photograph by Pete Souza, Afghanistan, 2001

“Fleeing the Taliban,” photograph by Pete Souza, Afghanistan, 2001

“It was strange, I was in a part of the country that had no electricity, no plumbing, and little food, yet I could power my laptop with a car battery, and then connect the computer to a satellite phone so I could check my email.” – Pete Souza, photojournalist

Courtesy of Pete Souza and Chicago Tribune

Canon Powershot digital camera, about 2004

Canon Powershot digital camera, about 2004

Inexpensive digital cameras enabled consumers to abandon film. A “Kodak moment” no longer required film or developing.

Hewlett Packard calculator watch, 1977

Hewlett Packard calculator watch, 1977

An LED display, a vibrating quartz regulator, and a calculator capable of algebraic work made this watch an early symbol of the mobile digital revolution.

Motorola Bravo BPR 2000 pager, 1982

Motorola Bravo BPR 2000 pager, 1982

When away from a land line telephone, a pager displayed the caller’s number. The owner would then locate a phone to return the call.

Game Boy, 1989

A single Game Boy unit could be used to play a variety of video games. Frustration over lost game pieces went down, but battery consumption skyrocketed.

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Walkman cassette player, 1980

Music playback equipment became smaller and shock-resistant with the switch to magnetic tape. Small cassette players like the Walkman made listening to music truly portable.

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iPod MP3 player, 2004

The music industry’s intellectual property rights and business model were challenged as people began storing MP3 music files on iPods and sharing them over the Internet.

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Motorola DynaTAC cell phone, about 1989

The first commercial handheld cell phone debuted in 1984 and cost $3,995. Mobile phones soon got smaller and cheaper.

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Apple Newton MessagePad, 1993

Innovation sometimes flops. Apple’s Newton could store contacts, manage calendars, and (sort of) understand handwritten notes. Too big for a pocket, it failed to impress consumers.

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Palm Pilot 5000 PDA, 1996

Carrying a bulky date book, address book, and memo pad became outdated as pocket-sized personal digital assistants (PDA) became available.

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Blackberry RIM 957 PDA, 2000

This Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) did not have phone capabilities, but its full keyboard let people easily get their email wherever they might be.

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Qualcomm PDQ 800 cell phone, 1998

In the late 1990s cell phones began to converge with digital devices such as PDAs, giving owners their calendar, note pad, and telephone all in one gadget.

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Motorola i1000 plus cell phone, 2000

New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani used this phone to text and talk on the go as he directed the September 11 recovery efforts.

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Blackberry smart phone, about 2009

Tweeting became a powerful marketing tool. Caroline Shin used this phone to find customers, understand their desires, and announce the Kogi BBQ food truck location.

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Google smart phone, about 2010

Google smart phone, about 2010

One important use of smart phones was mobile access to the Internet. This phone was owned by Vint Cerf, one of the designers of the Internet.

iPhone 3GS smart phone, about 2010

From Washington, D.C., journalist Andy Carvin expanded the Arab Spring movement by using this smart phone and social media to bring demonstrators together in Egypt and Libya.

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