Tomorrow’s World: Mobile phones, acceptance and bowing-heads

We’re not yet flying through the air in our flying cars. There’s still no sign of the pop-in-your-mouth tablet that makes you invisible (as seen, or unseen, in those old black and white films). Still, for now, we have enough technology to keep us us happy and our heads constantly bowed whilst playing with our phones.

Back to the 1970s and 1980s

Wanted to know about up-and-coming, futuristic technology? This is where the television programme, Tomorrow’s World, stepped-in.

The programme is no longer on TV, but there were a couple of episodes that have stuck in my mind. One of them introduced us to Compact Discs and the other episode introduced us to mobile telecommunications; we’ll focus on the later in this blog.

A dial phone with a ten-metre connected cord to enable roaming from room-to-room: that would have been be my realistic definition of a mobile phone back in 1979. Even the stretchy receiver cord gave some kind of mobility around the house; if the phone was fixed to the wall then it was cool to stretch the cord to the floor and chat whilst stretched-out in the sunbed position; sound kind-of mobile-ish? When I watched the Tomorrow’s World episode with the gent walking out the building whilst talking on the circular-dial phone, this was not just Tomorrow’s World, it was a world I didn’t think I’d see during my lifetime. As a nine-year-old, the only other idea mobile communication brought to me was when we made phones out of empty Ski yoghurt pots and string. Having a home phone installed two years earlier added weight to my thinking that I’d never see a mobile phone in my lifetime. I must reiterate, I was nine-years-old and even though there were futuristic programmes on television (Buck Rogers and Space 1999), there was still a flurry of yellow British Telecom vans zooming around installing telephones.

Skeptism and time needed for acceptance

Of course, to my jaw-dropping surprise, mobile telephones arrived and started to become popular.I could talk about the early mobiles looking like bricks, but instead I’ll focus on the scepticism of the mobile. In 1998 and I was the proud owner of a Nokia 1620 (I actually shrieked with excitement when I received my first ever text message). I went into my local branch of Lloyd’s TSB to apply for a loan; when the loan adviser asked for a contact number and I proudly reeled-off my mobile number, his whole demeanour was dismissive as he said ‘No No… I want a proper phone number… a home phone number‘. I obliged and gave him the number of the rooted-to-the-house telephone. The mobile phone lacked credibility and trust.

Acceptance and bowing-heads

Fast-forward to 2021: mobile phones rule. The scepticism that once surrounded them is a distant memory; credibility and trust assured. The proof that mobiles rule: bowed-heads everywhere – at dinner tables, crossing busy streets, in restaurants, bus stops, on public transport and after bonking sessions – everywhere and almost anytime! Flying cars and the pop-in-your-mouth tablet don’t seem like they will materialise; they are so far-fetched. But there again I could be wrong… so so wrong.

Enjoyed the blog? A nostalgic collection of blogs featuring a fun and factual look back at British advertising, leisure and entertainment from the 70s and 80s are featured in the new hardback book, Section N Underpass. Get the rundown here by clicking the front cover below:

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