4408 entries. 93 themes. Last updated July 30, 2014.

Telephone Timeline

Theme

1850 – 1875

The True Inventor of the Telephone? October 27, 1861

Johann Philipp Reis, a German schoolteacher and physicist, announced his invention of the telephone in a lecture before the Physical Society of Frankfurt. He published "Ueber Telephonie durch den galvanischen Strom" in Jahres-Bericht des physikalischen Vereins zu Frankfurt am Main fur des Rechungshahr 1860-1861 (1861). 

Reis's transmitter worked by alternatively making and breaking connection with a battery, while his receiver was designed to operate on the principle of magnetorestriction -- the property of ferromagnetic material such as iron to change shape on applicate of a magnetic field. Neither of these principles was adequate for constructing a successful speech-transmitting telephone, which requires continous contact and an undulating current; however,

"If the sound entering a Reis transmitter is not too strong, contact between the metal point and the metal strip will not be broken. Instead, the pressure of the former on the latter will fluctuate with the sound causing fluctuations in the electrical resistance and therefore in the current. Similarly the receiver will respond to continuously fluctuating as well as to intermittent currents (but not by magnetorestrction). The sensitivity, however, is extremely low. . . ." (Encyclopedia Brittanica, 15th edition.)

This may explain the partial but real success of Reis's telephone in transmitting intelligible speech.

Between 1858 and 1863 Reis constructed three different models of his telephone, the third and best-known of which was demonstrated to scientific societies throughout Europe and America. One of those who saw Reis's machine was Alexander Graham Bell, who was shown Reis's telephone at the Smithsonian Institution in March 1875, and who might have seen an earlier model demonstrated in Edinburgh as early as 1862.

Reis had no interest in profiting from his telephone, freely giving out information on it to anyone who asked, and selling models of it at a reasonable price. Reis died of tuberculosis in 1874 at the early age of 40.

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1875 – 1900

Bell Invents and Patents the Telephone February – May 10, 1876

In February 1876 Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in Boston and applied for the patent. Patent no. 174,465, Improvement in Telegraphy, was issued to Bell on March 7, 1876, by the U.S. Patent Office. Bell's patent covered "the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically . . . by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sound." In his invention of the telephone Bell was preceded by Philip Reis, who perfected his device in 1861, and numerous other inventors played lesser or greater roles. However, Bell was the first to create a telephone that could reproduce intelligible speech at the receiving end, and was also the first to patent the telephone. Because of the numerous other inventors involved there was unusually extensive and historic litigation over the telephone patents, culminating in Bell's victory. Among the controversies was the question of the priority of Elisha Gray in the invention.

As the well-known story goes, on March 10, 1876 Bell spoke the first words through the instrument to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, in the next room. Bell said, "Mr. Watson— come here— I want to see you." This was Bell's first proof that his invention actually worked.

Bell presented his first report on the telephone to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston on May 10, 1876. His report, "Researches in telephony," was published in Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, new series 4 (whole series 12) (1877) 1-10.  Bell's telephone did not become commercially viable until 1878.

♦In December 2013 a digital facsimile of Bell's laboratory notebook recording his March 10, 1876 experiment was available from the Library of Congress at this link.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine (1991) no. 164.

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The First Regular Telephone Line & The First Telephone Switchboard 1877

Construction of the first regular telephone line was completed in 1877. It ran from Boston to Somerville, Massachusetts. Also in 1877, the first telephone switchboard was set up in Boston.

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Emile Berliner Invents the Microphone March 4, 1877

On March 4, 1877 German-American inventor Emile Berliner, working in New York City, invented the microphone. It was first  used as a telephone speech transmitter.

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Formation of the Bell Telephone Company, then the American Bell Telephone Company July 9, 1877 – March 1880

The Bell Telephone Company was organized in Boston, Massachusetts on July 9, 1877 by Alexander Graham Bell's father-in-law Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who also helped organize a sister company — the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company. The Bell Telephone Company was started on the basis of holding "potentially valuable patents," principally Bell's master telephone patent #174465. Renamed the National Bell Telephone Company in March 1879, it became the American Bell Telephone Company in March 1880.

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David Hughes Invents the Loose-Contact Carbon Microphone 1878

In 1878 English inventor David Edward Hughes, working in London, invented the loose-contact carbon microphone. Hughes's microphone was vital to telephony, and later to broadcasting and sound recording.

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The First Regular Telephone Exchange is Established in New Haven, Connecticut January 1878

In January 1878 the first regular telephone exchange was set up in New Haven, Connecticut.

"The switchboard was built from 'carriage bolts, handles from teapot lids and bustle wire' and could handle two simultaneous conversations" (Wikipedia article on telephone exchange, accessed 04-22-2009).

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The First Telephone Directory is Published in New Haven, Connecticut November 1878

Eleven months after its foundation, in November 1878 The Connecticut District Telephone Company of New Haven, Connecticut issued the world's first telephone book. The telephone directory contained the names and addresses of 391 subscribers who paid $22 per year for service. There were no phone numbers, but there were advertisements and listings of businesses in the back of the book—the first, embryonic "yellow pages." The advertisers included physicians and carriage companies. Customers were limited to three minutes per call, and no more than two calls an hour without permission from the central office.

"Besides rules, the embryonic phone book also featured pages of tips on placing calls — pick up the receiver and tell the operator whom you want — and how to talk on this gadget. Having a real conversation, for example, required rapidly transferring the telephone between mouth and ear.“When you are not speaking, you should be listening,” it says at one point. You should begin by saying, “Hulloa,” and when done talking, the book says, you should say, “That is all.” The other person should respond, “O.K.” Because anybody could be on the line at any time, customers should not pick up the telephone unless they want to make a call, and they should be careful about what others might hear. “Any person using profane or otherwise improper language should be reported at this office immediately.”

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Filed under: Book History, Telephone

The First Wireless Telephone Communication April 1, 1880

On April 1, 1880 American inventor Alexander Graham Bell and his then-assistant Charles Summer Tainter transmitted the first wireless telephone message 213 meters on a beam of light between the roof of the Franklin School and the window of Bell's Washington, D. C. laboratory using the photophone

"The photophone used crystalline selenium cells at the focal point of its parabolic receiver. This material's electrical resistance varies inversely with the illumination falling upon it, i.e., its resistance is higher when it is in the dark, and lower when it is exposed to light. The idea of the photophone was thus to modulate a light beam: the resulting varying illumination of the receiver would induce a corresponding varying resistance in the selenium cells, which were then used by a telephone to regenerate the sounds captured at the receiver. The modulation of the transmitted light beam was done by a mirror made to vibrate by a person's voice: the thin mirror would alternate between concave and convex forms, thus focusing or dispersing the light from the light source. The photophone functioned similarly to the telephone, except the photophone used light as a means of projecting information, while the telephone relied on a modulated electrical signal carried over a conductive wire circuit" (Wikipedia article on Photophone, accessed 03-27-2010).

Bell's and Tainter's invention, for which Bell received the master patent (U.S. Patent 235,199) in December 1880, was the forerunner of wireless telecommunications and the far-advanced forerunner of fiber-optic telecommunications.

According to Long & Groth, Bibliography of Early Optical (Audio) Communications (2005) Bell's first paper on the photophone, "Prof. A. G. Bell on Selenium and the Photophone," was first published in The Electrician No 5, 18 September 1880, 220-221 and 2 October 1880, 237. The complete paper also was published in Nature (London) Vol 22, 23 September 1880, 500 - 503. Thus the first complete publication appears to be the version published in Nature.

Bell's longer paper "On the Production and Reproduction of Sound by Light: the Photophone" was first published in American Assocation  for the Advancement of Science, Proceedings, Vol 29., October 1880, 115-136. This paper was widely reprinted in other journals. "In these papers, Bell accords the credit for the first demonstrations of the transmission of speech by light to a Mr A C Brown of London 'in September or October 1878' "(Wikipedia article on Photophone, accessed 03-27-2010).

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AT&T is Founded March 3, 1885 – 1892

On March 3, 1885  American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (A T & T) was established to to create a nationwide long-distance network with a commercially viable cost-structure.  Starting from New York, the network reached Chicago in 1892.

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About 240,000 Telephones are in Use in the U.S.A. 1895

By 1895 about 240,000 telephones were in use in the United States.

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1910 – 1920

George Owen Squier Invents Telephone Carrier Multiplexing 1910

In 1910 American George Owen Squier, a General officer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Washington, D. C., invented telephone carrier multilplexing.

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The First Transcontinental Telephone Call January 25, 1915

On January 25, 1915 the AT&T long-distance telegraph network, the development of which began in 1885, finally reached from New York to San Francisco, allowing Alexander Graham Bell in New York and Thomas Watson in San Francisco to participate in the first transcontinental telephone call.

"Four locations participated in the first call. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone and co-founder of AT&T, led a group of dignitaries in New York. His one-time assistant Thomas Watson, led a group in San Francisco. AT&T President Theodore Vail [cousin of telegraphy inventor Alfred Vail] spoke from Jekyll Island, Ga. And U.S. President Woodrow Wilson spoke from the White House.  

At one point during the call, someone asked Professor Bell if he would repeat the first words he ever said over the telephone. He obliged, picking up the phone and repeating 'Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.' To which Watson, in San Francisco, replied, 'It would take me a week now.' "(http://www.corp.att.com/history/nethistory/transcontinental.html, accessed 01-24-2010).

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1920 – 1930

The Creation of Bell Labs 1925

In 1925 Walter Gifford, president of AT&T, consolidated Western Electric Research Laboratories and part of the engineering department of the American Telephone & Telegraph company (AT&T)  to form Bell Telephone Laboratories. From 1925 to 1966 the physical location of Bell was was 463 West Street in Manhattan.

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Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover Participates in the First American Demonstration of Television April 7, 1927

On April 7, 1927 newspaper reporters and dignitaries gathered at the AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories auditorium in New York City to see the first American demonstration of television. The live picture and voice of Secretary of Commerce (later President) Herbert Hoover were transmitted over telephone lines from Washington, D.C., to New York.  

“Today we have, in a sense, the transmission of sight for the first time in the world’s history,” Hoover said. “Human genius has now destroyed the impediment of distance in a new respect, and in a manner hitherto unknown.”

A second telecast followed that day, via radio transmission from Whippany, N.J. The telecasts demonstrated television’s potential as an adjunct to telephone service and as a medium for entertainment.

The live demonstration of television at Bell Labs was filmed, and in February 2013 that short movie was viewable on Facebook at this link:

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=116047015077905.

In April 1930 Bell Labs issued a pamphlet entitled Two-Way Television and a Pictorial Account of its Background, documenting the technology involved and the historic demonstration, plus some later developments.  An unusual dust jacket added to the 40-page illustrated pamphlet dramatized the new technology.

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1950 – 1960

The First Transatlantic Telephone Cable is Operational 1955 – September 25, 1956

On September 25, 1956 the first transatlantic telephone cable, TAT-1, became operational, carrying 36 telephone channels. It was laid between Gallanach Bay, near Oban, Scotland and Clarenville, Newfoundland between 1955 and 1956. 

Prior to this development, since 1927, very expensive radio-based transatlantic telephone service was available. However, radio-based transatlantic telephone service carried only around 2000 calls per year.

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1960 – 1970

Technical Basis for the Development of Phreaking November 1960

In November 1960 C. Breen and D. A. Dahlbaum of Bell Labs in New York published "Signaling Systems for the Control of Telephone Switching," Bell System Technical Journal, 39 (1960) 1381-1444.

"Telephone signaling is basically a matter of transferring information between machines, and between humans and machines. The techniques developed to accomplish this have evolved over the years in step with advances in the total telephone art. The history of this evolution is traced, starting from the early simple manual switchboard days to the present Direct Distance Dialing era. The effect of the increasing sophistication in automatic switching and transmission systems and their influence on signaling principles are discussed. Emphasis is given to the signaling systems used between central offices of the nationwide telephone network and the influence on such systems of the characteristics of switching systems and their information requirements, the transmission media and the compatibility problem. A review is made of the forms and characteristics of some of the interoffice signaling systems presently in use. In addition, the problem of signaling between Bell System and overseas telephone systems is reviewed with reference to delivering information requirements, signaling techniques and new transmission media. Finally, some speculation is made on the future trends of telephone signaling systems" (abstract of the paper).

According to http://www.historyofphonephreaking.org/docs.php, the Breen and Dahlbaum paper is

"often cited as the article that gave away the keys to the kingdom," leading to the development of the underground "phreaker" culture.  Other papers that included the in-band trunk signaling tones which provided the technical information needed to build Blue Boxes are cited at http://www.lospadres.info/thorg/bstj.html, accessed 09-17-2009).

My thanks to Jeffrey Odel for this reference.

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"Dial F for Frankenstein" 1961

In 1961 British science fiction writer, inventor and futurist Arthur C. Clarke of Sri Lanka published a short story entitled "Dial F for Frankenstein."

". . . it foretold an ever-more-interconnected telephone network that spontaneously acts like a newborn baby and leads to global chaos as it takes over financial, transportation and military systems" (John Markoff, "The Coming Superbrain," New York Times, May 24, 2009).

"The father of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, credits Clarke's short story, Dial F for Frankenstein, as an inspiration" (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/arthur-c-clarke-science-fiction-turns-to-fact-799519.html, accessed 05-24-2009).

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The First Digitally Multiplexed Transmission of Voice Signals 1962

"In 1962, Bell Labs developed the first digitally multiplexed transmission of voice signals. This innovation not only created a more economical, robust and flexible network design for voice traffic, but also laid the groundwork for today's advanced network services such as 911, 800-numbers, call-waiting and caller-ID. In addition, digital networking was the foundation for the convergence of computing and communications."

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The First Satellite to Relay Signals from Earth to Satellite and Back June 10, 1962

On June 10, 1962 a Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral launched the AT&T TELSTAR 1 satellite, designed and built at Bell Labs. It was the first privately owned active communications satellite, transmitting the first direct television pictures from the United States to Europe. It became the first satellite to relay signals from the earth to a satellite and back.

"Telstar was unique in that it had the ability to receive a signal, amplify it, and then transmitted it back to elsewhere on earth . . . which is, after all, the core of what a communications satellite does. This technology allowed telephones calls to be bounced from coast to coast and around the world. The satellite was powered by Bell Labs solar cells and transistors – two other Bell Labs pioneering inventions."

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The First Geosynchronous Communications Satellite is Launched July 26, 1963

On July 26, 1963 the first geosynchronous communications satellite, Syncom 2, was launched by NASA on a Delta rocket B booster from Cape Canaveral. "Its orbit was inclined rather than geostationary. . . The satellite successfully kept stationary at the altitude calculated by Herman Poto─Źnik Noordung in the 1920s.

"During Syncom 2's first year, NASA conducted voice, teletype, and facsimile tests, as well as 110 public demonstrations to acquaint people with Syncom's capabilities and invite their feedback. In August 1963, President John F. Kennedy in Washington, D.C., telephoned Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa aboard USNS Kingsport docked in Lagos Harbor; the first live two-way call between heads of state by satellite. The Kingsport acted as a control station and uplink stationa' (Wikipedia article on Syncom, accessed 05-24-2009).

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Touch-Tone Dialing is Introduced November 1963

In November 1963 touch-tone telephone dialing, developed at Bell Labs, was introduced, enabling calls to be switched digitally. The research leading to the design of the touch-tone keyboard was conducted by industrial psychologist John E. Karlin, head of Bell Labs’ Human Factors Engineering department, the first department of its kind at any American company.

"The rectangular design of the keypad, the shape of its buttons and the position of the numbers — with 1-2-3' on the top row instead of the bottom, as on a calculator — all sprang from empirical research conducted or overseen by Mr. Karlin.  

"The legacy of that research now extends far beyond the telephone: the keypad design Mr. Karlin shepherded into being has become the international standard on objects as diverse as A.T.M.’s, gas pumps, door locks, vending machines and medical equipment" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/09/business/john-e-karlin-who-led-the-way-to-all-digit-dialing-dies-at-94.html, accessed 02-10-2013).

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First Use of the Term "Hacker" in the Context of Computing November 20, 1963

On November 20, 1963 the first use of the term "hacker" in the context of computing appeared in the MIT student newspaper, The Tech:

"Many telephone services have been curtailed because of so-called hackers, according to Prof. Carlton Tucker, administrator of the Institute phone system. . . .The hackers have accomplished such things as tying up all the tie-lines between Harvard and MIT, or making long-distance calls by charging them to a local radar installation. One method involved connecting the PDP-1 computer to the phone system to search the lines until a dial tone, indicating an outside line, was found. . . . Because of the 'hacking,' the majority of the MIT phones are 'trapped.' "

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The First Schottky-Barrier Gate Field Effect Transistor 1965 – 1966

In 1965 American electrical engineer and computer scientist Carver Mead of Caltech built the first working Schottky-barrier gate field-effect transistor: GaAs (gallium arsenide) MESFET (metal-semiconductor field effect transistor). This key amplifying device became a mainstay of high-frequency wireless electronics, used in microwave communication systems from radio telescopes to home satellite dishes and cellular phones. Using band-gap-engineered materials, the device evolved into the HEMT (High-electron-mobility transistor).

Mead, "Schottky Barrier Gate Field Effect Transistor," Proceedings of IEEE 54 (1966) 307−308.

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The First Commercial Communications Satellite to be Placed in Geosynchronous Orbit April 6, 1965

On April 6, 1965, Intelsat I (nicknamed Early Bird), was placed in geosynchronous orbit above the Atlantic Ocean by a Thrust Augmented Delta D rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Built by the Space and Communications Group of Hughes Aircraft Company (later Hughes Space and Communications Company, and now Boeing Satellite Systems) for COMSAT, Intelsat I was the first commercial communications satellite to be placed in geosynchronous orbit, and the first satellite to provide direct and near instantaneous contact between Europe and North America. It handled television, telephone, and facsimile transmissions. It measured nearly 76 x 61 cm and weighed 34.5 kg.

"It [Intelsat I] helped provide the first live TV coverage of a spacecraft splashdown, that of Gemini 6 in December 1965. Originally slated to operate for 18 months, Early Bird was in active service for four years, being deactivated in January 1969, although it was briefly activated in June of that year to serve the Apollo 11 flight when the Atlantic Intelsat satellite failed. It was deactivated again in August 1969 and has been inactive since that time (except for a brief reactivation in 1990 to commemorate its 25th launch anniversary), although it remains in orbit. . . .Early Bird was one of the satellites used in the then record-breaking broadcast of Our World" (Wikipedia article on Intelsat I, accessed 03-23-2012).

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The Viterbi Algorithm 1967

While a professor at UCLA in 1967, Italian-American electrical engineer and businessman Andrew Viterbi developed the Viterbi algorithm,

 "as an error-correction scheme for noisy digital communication links, finding universal application in decoding the convolutional codes used in both CDMA and GSM digital cellular, dial-up modems, satellite, deep-space communications, and 802.11 wireless LANs. It is now also commonly used in speech recognition, keyword spotting, computational linguistics, and bioinformatics. For example, in speech-to-text (speech recognition), the acoustic signal is treated as the observed sequence of events, and a string of text is considered to be the "hidden cause" of the acoustic signal. The Viterbi algorithm finds the most likely string of text given the acoustic signal" (Wikipedia article on Viterbi algorithm, accessed 12-29-2009).

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Invention of the "Smart Card" 1968 – 1984

In 1968 German electrical engineers Helmut Gröttrup of Stuttgart and Jürgen Dethloff, of Hamburg, invented the smart card (chip card, or integrated circuit card [ICC]) and applied for the patent. The patent for the smart card was finally granted to both inventors in 1982. The first wide use of the cards was for payment in French pay phones—France Telecom Télécarte—starting in 1983-84.

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1970 – 1980

Phreaker Underground Telephone System Culture 1971

Steve "Woz" Wozniak and Steve Jobs read an article about phreaking by Ron Rosenbaum entitled "Secrets of the Little Blue Box" in the October 1971 issue of Esquire magazine, and became active in the phreaker culture, with its legendary character "Captain Crunch." 

Wozniak's "blue box" used for phreaking in 1972 is preserved in the Computer History Museum.

Though on a much smaller scale, the phreaker underground telephone system culture was an analogous precursor of the hacker culture that later evolved around computers and the Internet.

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An Antitrust Suit to Break up AT&T November 20, 1974

On November 20, 1974 the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit for the breakup of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), alleging anticompetitive behavior.

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Prototype Cellular Telephone System 1977

In 1977 AT&T and Bell Labs constructed a prototype analog cellular telephone system. The following year the first public trials occurred in Chicago with 2000 users.

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The Minitel 1978 – June 30, 2012

Rolled out experimentally in 1978 in Brittany, and throughout France in 1982 by PTT (Poste, Téléphone et Télécommunications), the Minitel was a Videotex online service accessible through telephone lines.  In 1991 PTT was divided into France Télécom and La Poste, with the Minitel operated by France Télécom. Users of the Minitel could make online purchases, make train reservations, check stock prices, search the telephone directory, have a mail box, and chat in a way similar to the Internet.

"Millions of terminals were lent for free to telephone subscribers, resulting in a high penetration rate among businesses and the public. In exchange for the terminal, the possessors of Minitel would not be given free 'white page' printed directories (alphabetical list of residents and firms), but only the yellow pages (classified commercial listings, with advertisements); the white pages were accessible for free on Minitel, and they could be searched by a reasonably intelligent search engine; much faster than flipping through a paper directory.

"France Télécom estimates that almost 9 million terminals—including web-enabled personal computers (Windows, Mac OS, and Linux)—had access to the network at the end of 1999, and that it was used by 25 million people (of a total population of 60 million). Developed by 10,000 companies, in 1996, almost 26,000 different services were available" (Wikipedia article in Minitel, accessed 07-11-2012).

Though usage was concentrated in France, the Minitel had a significant level of usage primarily in other European countries. The service was introduced in the United States very late, in 1993, by which time it faced serious competition from early Internet providers such as AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe.  The Minitel service was finally shut down by France Télécom on June 30, 2012.

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Making Small Portable Digital Telephones Possible 1979

In 1979 the first single-chip digital signal processor (DSP) was developed at Bell Labs, making small portable digital telephones possible.

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The Basis for Cellular Telephone Technology May 1, 1979

"The concepts of frequency reuse and handoff as well as a number of other concepts that formed the basis of modern cell phone technology are first described in U.S. Patent 4,152,647, issued May 1, 1979 to Charles A. Gladden and Martin H. Parelman, both of Las Vegas, Nevada and assigned by them to the United States Government.

"This is the first embodiment of all the concepts that formed the basis of the next major step in mobile telephony, the Analog cellular telephone. Concepts covered in this patent (cited in at least 34 other patents) also were later extended to several satellite communication systems. Later updating of the cellular system to a digital system credits this patent" (Wikipedia article on Mobil phone, accessed 04-11-2009).

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1980 – 1990

Digital Cellular Telephone Technology is Developed 1980

In 1980 Bell Labs developed digital cellular telephone technology, offering better sound quality, greater channel capacity and lower cost than analog.

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The First Cellular Telephone Service in the United Sates December 16, 1982

On December 16, 1982 the Federal Communications Commission authorized American Telephone and Telegraph to build a commercial cellular telephone service in Chicago. This was the beginning of commercial cellular service in the United States.

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The First Commercial Analog Cellular Telephone Service October 13, 1983 – 1984

In October 1983 the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x became the first mobile phone approved by the FCC in the United States. It was also the first portable cell phone small enough to be easily carried.

"The first model, the 8000x, received FCC certification in 1983, and became the first cell phone to be offered commercially when it went on sale on 6 March 1983. It offered 30 minutes of talk time and 8 hours of standby, and a LED display for dialling or recall of one of 30 phone numbers. It was priced at $3,995 in 1983. DynaTAC was an abbreviation of Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage."

"On October 13, 1983, David D Meilahn placed the first commercial wireless call on a DynaTAC from his 1983 Mercedes 380SL to Bob Barnett, former president of Ameritech Mobile Communications, who then placed a call on a DynaTAC from inside a Chrysler convertible to the grandson of Alexander Graham Bell who was in Germany for the event. The call, made at Soldier Field in Chicago, is considered by many as a major turning point in communications. Later Richard H. Frenkiel, the head of system development at Bell Laboratories, said about the DynaTAC: 'It was a real triumph; a great breakthrough' " (Wikipedia article on Motorola DynaTAC, accessed 03-16-2013).

"In 1984, Bell Labs developed modern commercial cellular technology (based, to a large extent, on the Gladden, Parelman Patent), which employed multiple, centrally controlled base stations (cell sites), each providing service to a small area (a cell). The cell sites would be set up such that cells partially overlapped. In a cellular system, a signal between a base station (cell site) and a terminal (phone) only need be strong enough to reach between the two, so the same channel can be used simultaneously for separate conversations in different cells" (Wikipedia article on Mobil phone, accessed 04-11-2009).

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2600: The Hacker Quarterly 1984

In 1984 under the pen name of Emmanuel Goldstein (an Orwellian allusion to 1984), Eric Gordon Corley began publication of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly

"a quarterly American publication that specializes in publishing technical information on a variety of subjects including telephone switching systems, Internet protocols and services, as well as general news concerning the computer "underground" and left wing, and sometimes (but not recently), anarchist issues.

"The magazine's name comes from the phreaker discovery in the 1960s that the transmission of a 2600 hertz tone (which could be produced perfectly with a plastic toy whistle given away free with Cap'n Crunch cereal—discovered by friends of John Draper) over a long-distance trunk connection gained access to "operator mode" and allowed the user to explore aspects of the telephone system that were not otherwise accessible. The magazine was given its name by David Ruderman, who co-founded the magazine with his college friend and roommate, Eric Corley. It was first published in 1984, coinciding with the book of the same name and the break-up of AT&T. Ruderman ended his direct involvement with the magazine three years later.

"The magazine is published and edited by its co-founder Emmanuel Goldstein (a pen name of Eric Corley and allusion to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four) . . . .

"The magazine offers free advertising for subscribers. Many subscribers who have been imprisoned will take out personal ads seeking new friends and penpals" (Wikipedia article on 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, accessed 01-17-2010).

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Breakup of AT&T January 1, 1984

On January 1, 1984 American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), was officially broken up, ending a long-established monopoly on telephone service. AT&T's local operations were split into seven independent regional Bell operating companies, known as "Baby Bells." AT&T, reduced in value by about 70%, continued to run all its long distance services.

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GSM is Developed 1987

In 1987 Norwegian engineer Torleiv Maseng, project leader at SINTEFTrondheim, Norway, and Odd Trandem developed the technology that became accepted as the Global System for Mobil communications (GSM). Maseng's work "included the use of channel estimation and the combination of equalization, error correcting codes and modulation in which the Viterbi algorithm was used by all components" (Wikipedia article on Torleiv Maseng, accessed 12-29-2009).

" 'The most important reason we prevailed was that our system was the best in handling the interference created when radio signals are reflected by buildings and topography,' Mr. Maseng says.  

“ 'As the number of reflected signals increases, there is a greater chance that the radio transmitter or receiver gets confused and mixes up the signals. Norway has an abundance of those kinds of natural topographic challenges.'  

"A central concept in understanding how the system works is bandwidth. Bandwidth can be compared with the speed at which people talk. In this analogy, the faster you talk, the higher the bandwidth. But high bandwidth can be a problem in places with lots of reflected signals. The same problem explains why most hymns are sung slowly in church. If they are sung quickly, the acoustics of the church turn the hymn into an unintelligible mess.  

"This phenomenon also confounds radio signals. But Mr. Maseng and Mr. Trandem came up with a clever solution. The problem is that if the data speed is too high, the receiving equipment cannot deal with signals that ‘hang in the air’ at the same time, and the signal becomes chaotic. But if the bandwidth is too low, there is a greater chance that the signal will disappear because the receiving equipment cannot distinguish between different echoes.  

"Maseng and Trandem altered their bandwidth during testing; they could do this because they devised a way to see their results in real time. By doing this they were able to find the optimal bandwidth between the two extremes. Their competitors could not. The two researchers were clever, but they also had a powerful tool to help them: A Cray supercomputer, purchased by NTNU’s predecessor, NTH, in 1986. “The computing power of the Cray was a great help in finding the optimal bandwidth,” Odd Trandem says" (http://www.ntnu.no/gemini/2005-01e/gsm.htm, accessed 12-29-2009).

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1990 – 2000

Junk Faxes are Outlawed 1991

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush as Public Law 102-243, amending the Communications Act of 1934.

"The TCPA is the primary law in the US governing the conduct of telephone solicitations, ie. telemarketing. The TCPA restricts the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial or prerecorded voice messages, SMS text messages received by cell phones, and the use of fax machines to send unsolicited advertisements. It also specifies several technical requirements for fax machines, autodialers, and voice messaging systems -- principally with provisions requiring identification and contact information of the entity using the device to be contained in the message" (Wikipedia article on Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, accessed 10-31-2009).

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The First GSM Cellular Phone Call March 27, 1991

The world's first GSM (Global System for Mobil communications) phone call was made in Finland on March 27, 1991 over the Radiolinja network. 

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2G Cellular Telecom July 1, 1991

On July 1, 1991 second generation 2G cellular telecom networks were commercially launched on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) standard in Finland on Radiolinja's network.

"Three primary benefits of 2G networks over their predecessors were that phone conversations were digitally encrypted, 2G systems were significantly more efficient on the spectrum allowing for far greater mobile phone penetration levels; and 2G introduced data services for mobile, starting with SMS text messages.

"After 2G was launched, the previous mobile telephone systems were retrospectively dubbed 1G. While radio signals on 1G networks are analog, and on 2G networks are digital, both systems use digital signaling to connect the radio towers (which listen to the handsets) to the rest of the telephone system" (Wikipedia article on GSM, accessed 04-11-2009).

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Neil Papworth Sends the First SMS Text Message December 3, 1992

On December 3, 1992, using a personal computer, Neil Papworth of Sema Group in Newbury, Berkshire, England sent the first commercial SMS  text message to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone who received it on his on his Orbitel 901 mobile phone. The text of the message was "Merry Christmas." Jarvis did not reply because there was no way to send a text from a phone at the time. That had to wait for Nokia's first mobile phone in 1993.

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The First Tablet Computer with Wireless Connectivity April 1993 – July 1994

In April 1993 AT&T introduced the AT&T EO Personal Communicator, the first tablet computer with wireless connectivity via a cellular phone. The device, which provided wireless voice, email, and fax communications, was developed by GO/Eo, a subsidiary of GO Corporation, both of which were acquired by AT&T in 1993. As advanced as it was, the AT&T Personal Communicator was probably far ahead of the market. EO Inc., 52% owned by AT&T, failed to meet its revenue targets and shut down on July, 1994.

"Two models, the Communicator 440 and 880 were produced and measured about the size of a small clipboard. Both were powered by the AT&T Hobbit chip, created by AT&T specifically for running code from the C programming language. They also contained a host of I/O ports - modem, parallel, serial, VGA out and SCSI. The device came with a wireless cellular network modem, a built-in microphone with speaker and a free subscription to AT&T EasyLink Mail for both fax and e-mail messages.

"Perhaps the most interesting part was the operating system, PenPoint OS, created by GO Corporation. Widely praised for its simplicity and ease of use, the OS never gained widespread use. Also equally compelling was the tightly integrated applications suite, Perspective, licensed to EO by Pensoft" (Wikipedia article on EO Personal Communicator, accessed 02-03-2010).

Ken Maki, The AT&T EO Travel Guide. (1993).

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The First Access to the Mobile Web 1996

"The first access to the mobile web was commercially offered in Finland in 1996 on the Nokia Communicator 9000 phone on the Sonera and Radiolinja networks. This was access to the real internet" (Wikipedia article on Mobile web, accessed 04-25-2009).

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WAP is Established June 1997

In June 1997 the Wireless Application Protocol or WAP was established as a secure specification that allowed users to access information via handheld wireless devices.

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The First Full Internet Service on Cell Phones in Japan 1999

In 1999 NTT DoCoMo introduced the mobile web to Japan with the first full internet service on mobile phones, and the first mobile-specific web browser. 

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2000 – 2005

The First 3G Cellular Network October 1, 2001

The DoCoMo logo

The Sanno Park Tower

A large pile of Docomodake merchandise. Docomodake is the mascot of NTT DoCoMo and is a very popular character in Japan

On October 1, 2001 NTT DoCoMo of Tokyo, Japan, launched the first 3G (Third Generation) cellular network.

"3G networks enable network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved spectral efficiency. Services include wide-area wireless voice telephony, video calls, and broadband wireless data, all in a mobile environment. Additional features also include HSPA data transmission capabilities able to deliver speeds up to 14.4 Mbit/s on the downlink and 5.8 Mbit/s on the uplink" (Wikipedia article on 3G, accessed 04-11-2009).

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The First Cell Phone Novel 2003

The codex form of a Japanese cell phone novel.

An example of cover art for Deep Love

Under the  pen name  "Yoshi," in 2003 a Tokyo man published the first cell phone novelDeep Love— the story of a teenage prostitute in Tokyo. Deep Love

"became so popular that it was published as an actual book, with 2.6 million copies sold in Japan, then spun off into a television series, a manga, and a movie. The cell phone novel became a hit mainly through word of mouth and gradually started to gain traction in China and South Korea among young adults. In Japan, several sites offer large prizes to authors (up to $100,000 US) and purchase the publishing rights to the novel."

"Cell phone or mobile phone novels called keitai shousetsu in Japanese, are the first literary genre to emerge from the cellular age via text messaging. Phone novels started out primarily read and authored by young Japanese women, on the subject of romantic fiction such as relationships, lovers, rape, love triangles, and pregnancy. However, mobile phone novels are trickling their way to a worldwide popularity on all subjects. Japanese ethos of the Internet regarding mobile phone novels are dominated by false names and forged identities. Therefore, identities of the Japanese authors of mobile phone novels are rarely disclosed. 'Net transvestites' are of the most extreme play actors of the sort. Differing from regular novels, mobile phone novels may be structured according to the author's preference. If a couple is fighting in the story, the author may choose to have the lines closely spaced and crowded. On the contrary, if the author writes a calm or soothing poem the line spacing may be further apart than normal. Overall, the line spacing of phone novels contains enough blank space for an easy read. Phone novels are meant to be read in 1,000 to 2,000-word (in China) or 70-word (in Japan) chapters via text message on mobile phones. They are downloaded in short installments and run on handsets as Java-based applications on a mobile phone. Cell phone novels often appear in three different formats: WMLD, JAVA and TXT. Maho i-Land is the largest cell phone novel site that carries more than a million titles, mainly novice writers, all which are available for free. Maho iLand provides templates for blogs and homepages. It is visited 3.5 billion times each month. In 2007 98 cell phone novels were published into books. "Love Sky" is a popular phone novel with approximately 12 million views on-line, written by "Mika", that was not only published but turned into a movie. www.textnovel.com is another popular mobile phone novel site, however, in English."

"Five out of the ten best selling novels in Japan in 2007 were originally cell phone novels" (Wikipedia article on Cell phone novel, accessed 08-23-2009).

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Skype is Founded August 2003

Niklas Zenström

Janus Friis

Ahti Heinla

Priit Kasesalu

The Skype logo

In August 2003 Swedish entrepreneurs Niklas Zennström, Janus Friis, and the Estonians Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu launched the peer-to-peer voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephony service, Skype. The name of the company evolved from "Sky peer-to-peer" or "Skyper." However some of the domain names associated with "Skyper" were already taken, so the final "r" was dropped leaving "Skype," for which domain names were available. Skype was sold to eBay, based in San Jose, California, in September 2005. On 10 May 2011 Microsoft purchased Skype from eBay for a supposed $8.5 billion. According to the Wikipedia Skype had 663 million registered users in September 2011.

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2005 – 2010

"From Gutenberg to the Internet" 2005

In 2005 the author/editor of this database, Jeremy Norman, issued From Gutenberg to the Internet: A Sourcebook on the History of Information Technology.

This printed book was the first anthology of original publications, reflecting the origins of the various technologies that converged to form the Internet. Each reading is introduced by the editor.

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Twitter: "What Are You Doing?" October 2006

The Twitter logo

An example of a "tweet"

In October 2006 the start-up company Obvious, in San Francisco, launched the social networking and micro-blogging service Twitter: What are you doing?. Twitter "allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length." This was under the 160 character limit of the SMS communication protocol for mobile phones.

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Steve Jobs Introduces the iPhone June 29, 2007

The iPhone 3G

On June 29, 2007 Apple introduced the iPhone, an internet-connected multimedia smartphone with a virtual keypad and a virtual keyboard.

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Drama in the Context of a Telephone Exchange (1928) 2008

In Changeling, an American historical drama film set in Los Angeles in 1928, the central figure played by Angelina Jolie worked as a supervisor in a telephone exchange, then a manual operation. In the film the operation of the exchange appeared to be accurately depicted. Based on a true story, the drama focussed on police corruption and the covering up of police incompetence in the context of heart-wrenching child abductions and murders. It was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, written by J. Michael Straczynski, and starred Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich. It was introduced in 2008.

"Later exchanges consisted of one to several hundred plug boards staffed by telephone operators. Each operator sat in front of a vertical panel containing banks of ¼-inch tip-ring-sleeve (5-conductor) jacks, each of which was the local termination of a subscriber's telephone line. In front of the jack panel lay a horizontal panel containing two rows of patch cords, each pair connected to a cord circuit. When a calling party lifted the receiver, a signal lamp near the jack would light. The operator would plug one of the cords (the "answering cord") into the subscriber's jack and switch her headset into the circuit to ask, "number please?" Depending upon the answer, the operator might plug the other cord of the pair (the "ringing cord") into the called party's local jack and start the ringing cycle, or plug into a trunk circuit to start what might be a long distance call handled by subsequent operators in another bank of boards or in another building miles away. In 1918, the average time to complete the connection for a long-distance call was 15 minutes. In the ringdown method, the originating operator called another intermediate operator who would call the called subscriber, or passed it on to another intermediate operator. This chain of intermediate operators could complete the call only if intermediate trunk lines were available between all the centers at the same time. In 1943 when military calls had priority, a cross-country US call might take as long as 2 hours to request and schedule in cities that used manual switchboards for toll calls" (Wikipedia article on Telephone exchange, accessed 04-26-2009).

(This entry was last revised on 04-30-2014.)

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The First Android Phone is Introduced September 23, 2008

On September 23, 2008 T-Mobile, headquartered in Bonn, Germany, announced the first cell phone powered by the Android operating system, developed by Google in association with the Open Handset Alliance.

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The First Magazine Cover Created as iPhone Art June 1, 2009

Artist Jorge Columbo's cover art for the New Yorker magazine of June 1, 2009 drawn entirely on an iPhone using the Brushes app was the first iPhone art published as the cover of a major magazine.

"It has been widely reported that my drawings are now made on an iPhone... Considering all the sketches and watercolors and photographs I have done in the USA for the past twenty years, my output in the Brushes app since I bought a G3 last February is still rather small. It has attracted more attention than anything else I have done: it seems people can't resist a nice tech story. But it's a happy affair. As much as I enjoy and admire other media, drawing on a screen that's always bright even on a dark street, with no paint to carry, no brushes to wash, and countless levels of "undo", seems to agree with me. I always work on location, drawing everything from scratch, with no use of photography whatsoever. (The app churns out Quicktime movies that detail each brushtroke, as seen in The New Yorker's website; it mercifully ignores all the trial-and-errors and failed attempts, making my progression look uncannily flawless. That's so not true.) I could carry a pad or even an easel around. But drawing on a phone is so discreet, so casual" (http://www.drawger.com/jorgecolombo/?section=articles&article_id=9154, accessed 01-07-2010).

♦ On January 07, 2010 you could watch a series of Quicktime movies of Jorge Columbo creating iPhone paintings on the New Yorker website at this link: http://www.newyorker.com/video?videoID=40951183001.

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David Hockney's iPhone Art October 22, 2009

On October 22, 2009 Lawrence Wechler, director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University,  published "David Hockney's iPhone Passion," New York Review of Books LXVI, no. 16, 35.

Hockney had a history of exploiting new technologies in his art:

"Hockney continued to explore other media besides painting, most notably photography. From 1982-86, he created some of his best-known and most iconographic work — his “joiners,” large composite landscapes and portraits made up of hundreds or thousands of individual photographs. Hockney initially used a Polaroid camera for the photos, switching to a 35 mm camera as the works grew larger and more complex. In interviews, Hockney related the “joiners” to cubism, pointing out that they incorporate elements that a traditional photograph does not possess — namely time, space, and narrative.

"Always willing to adopt new techniques, in 1986 Hockney began producing art with color photocopiers. He has also incorporated fax machines (faxing art to an exhibition in Brazil, for example) and computer-generated images (most notably Quantel Paintbox, a computer system often used to make graphics for television shows) into his work" (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/david-hockney/the-colors-of-music/103/, accessed 01-09-2010).

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2010 – 2011

After the Earthquake in Haiti, Donating by SMS Text January 13, 2010

After the disastrous earthquake in Haiti you could send aid money by text message on your cell phone, and $10 was put on your cell phone bill. In the case of the Red Cross you could "send a $10 Donation by Texting ‘Haiti’ to 90999", or you could donate by phone or by credit card on the Red Cross website, or through social networking sites.

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World Texting Competition is Won by Koreans January 14, 2010

The first LG Mobile Worldcup SMS texting championship took place in New York on January 14, 2010.

“ 'When others watch me texting, they think I’m not that fast and they can do better,' said Mr. Bae, 17, a high school dropout who dyes his hair a light chestnut color and is studying to be an opera singer.'So far, I’ve never lost a match.'

"In the New York competition he typed six characters a second. 'If I can think faster I can type faster,' he said.

"The inaugural Mobile World Cup, hosted by the South Korean cellphone maker LG Electronics, brought together two-person teams from 13 countries who had clinched their national titles by beating a total of six million contestants. Marching behind their national flags, they gathered in New York on Jan. 14 for what was billed as an international clash of dexterous digits" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/world/asia/28seoul.html, accessed 01-28-2010).

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Cell Phones Are Now Used More for Data than Speech May 13, 2010

According to The New York Times, in May 2010 people were using their cell phones more for text messaging and data-processing than for speech. This should not come as a surprise to anyone with teen-age children.

". . . although almost 90 percent of households in the United States now have a cellphone, the growth in voice minutes used by consumers has stagnated, according to government and industry data.  

"This is true even though more households each year are disconnecting their landlines in favor of cellphones.  

"Instead of talking on their cellphones, people are making use of all the extras that iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smartphones were also designed to do — browse the Web, listen to music, watch television, play games and send e-mail and text messages.  

"The number of text messages sent per user increased by nearly 50 percent nationwide last year, according to the CTIA, the wireless industry association. And for the first time in the United States, the amount of data in text, e-mail messages, streaming video, music and other services on mobile devices in 2009 surpassed the amount of voice data in cellphone calls, industry executives and analysts say. 'Originally, talking was the only cellphone application,' said Dan Hesse, chief executive of Sprint Nextel. 'But now it’s less than half of the traffic on mobile networks.'  

"Of course, talking on the cellphone isn’t disappearing entirely. 'Anytime something is sensitive or is something I don’t want to be forwarded, I pick up the phone rather than put it into a tweet or a text,' said Kristen Kulinowski, a 41-year-old chemistry teacher in Houston. And calling is cheaper than ever because of fierce competition among rival wireless networks.  

"But figures from the CTIA show that over the last two years, the average number of voice minutes per user in the United States has fallen (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/14/technology/personaltech/14talk.html?hp, accessed 05-14-2010).

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Data on Mobile Networks is Doubling Each Year August 1, 2010

"The volume of data on the world’s mobile networks is doubling each year, according to Cisco Systems, the U.S. maker of routers and networking equipment. By 2014, it estimates, the monthly data flow will increase about sixteenfold, to 3.6 billion gigabytes from 220.1 million" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/technology/02iht-NETPIPE02.html?src=un&feedurl=http://json8.nytimes.com/pages/business/global/index.jsonp, accessed 08-01-2010)

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3G Wireless Telephony in Mt. Everest Region of Nepal October 29, 2010

In October 2010 wireless provider NcellKathmandu, Nepal, launched 3G wireless telephony services in the Mount Everest area.

"This, of course, is not just so adventure seekers can live-tweet their ascent to the top of Everest. The 3G roll out will also provide residents in the area with much-needed access to advanced telecom services. By the end of 2011, Ncell will provide mobile coverage to more than 90 percent of the people in Nepal, according to TeliaSonera, which owns Ncell.

"The company's 3G base station is located at an altitude of about 17,000 feet and is the highest in the world, TeliaSonera said. It will enable locals, climbers, and trekkers to surf the Web, send video clips and e-mails, and make calls at rates cheaper than satellite phones" (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2371750,00.asp)

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3D Maps for Android Mobil Devices December 16, 2010

On December 16, 2010 Google announced Google Maps 5.0 for Android, with two significant new features: 3D interaction and offline reliability.

"In order to create these features, we rebuilt Maps using vector graphics to dynamically draw the map as you use it. Building a vector graphics engine capable of achieving the visual quality and performance level you expect from Google Maps was a major technical challenge and enables all sorts of future possibilities. So we wanted to give you a closer look under the hood at the technology driving the next generation of mobile maps.

". . . . Previously, Google Maps downloaded the map as sets of individual 256x256 pixel 'image tiles.'Each pre-rendered image tile was downloaded with its own section of map imagery, roads, labels and other features baked right in. Google Maps would download each tile as you needed it and then stitch sets together to form the map you see. It takes more than 360 billion tiles to cover the whole world at 20 zoom levels! Now, we use vector graphics to dynamically draw the map. Maps will download 'vector tiles' that describe the underlying geometry of the map. You can think of them as the blueprints needed to draw a map, instead of static map images. Because you only need to download the blueprints, the amount of data needed to draw maps from vector tiles is drastically less than when downloading pre-rendered image tiles. Google Maps isn’t the first mobile app to use vector graphics—in fact, Google Earth and our Navigation (Beta) feature do already. But a combination of modern device hardware and innovative engineering allow us to stream vector tiles efficiently and render them smoothly, while maintaining the speed and readability we require in Google Maps" (The Official Google Blog, 12-17-2010).

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2011 – 2014

The Smartphone Becomes the CPU of the Laptop January 2011

Motorola Mobility, headquartered in Libertyville, Illinois, introduced the Atrix 4G smartphone powered by Nvidia's Tegra 2 dual-core  processor and Android 2.2, with a 4-inch display, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of on-board storage, front- and rear-facing cameras, a 1930 mAh battery and a fingerprint reader. Motorola announced that it would also sell laptop and desktop docks that run a full version of Firefox, powered entirely by the phone.

What was significant about this smartphone was that the phone could do the information processing for the laptop or even the desktop interfaces.

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Voice-Activated Translation on Cell Phones January 12, 2011

Google introduced an improved Google Translate for Android Conversation Mode: 

"This is a new interface within Google Translate that’s optimized to allow you to communicate fluidly with a nearby person in another language. You may have seen an early demo a few months ago, and today you can try it yourself on your Android device.  

"Currently, you can only use Conversation Mode when translating between English and Spanish. In conversation mode, simply press the microphone for your language and start speaking. Google Translate will translate your speech and read the translation out loud. Your conversation partner can then respond in their language, and you’ll hear the translation spoken back to you. Because this technology is still in alpha, factors like regional accents, background noise or rapid speech may make it difficult to understand what you’re saying. Even with these caveats, we’re excited about the future promise of this technology to be able to help people connect across languages" (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/new-look-for-google-translate-for.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+blogspot/MKuf+(Official+Google+Blog), accessed 01-14-2011.

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More than Ten Billion Apps are Downloaded from the Apple App Store January 22, 2011

On January 22, 2011 the Apple App Store completed its countdown for its Ten Billionth App downloaded from the Apple App Store.

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Confession: A Roman Catholic iPhone App February 2011

Confession: A Roman Catholic App by Little i Apps, LLC, South Bend, Indiana:

"Designed to be used in the confessional, this app is the perfect aid for every penitent. With a personalized examination of conscience for each user, password protected profiles, and a step-by-step guide to the sacrament, this app invites Catholics to prayerfully prepare for and participate in the Rite of Penance. Individuals who have been away from the sacrament for some time will find Confession: A Roman Catholic App to be a useful and inviting tool.  

"The text of this app was developed in collaboration with Rev. Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Rev. Dan Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, IN. The app received an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin C. Rhodes of the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend. It is the first known imprimatur to be given for an iPhone/iPad app.

From one of our users which we stand by:

=============================

"it does not and can not take the place of confessing before a validly ordained Roman Catholic priest in a Confessional, in person, either face to face, or behind the screen. Why? Because the Congregation on Divine Worship and the Sacraments has long ruled that Confessions by electronic media are invalid and that ABSOLUTION BY THE PRIEST must be given in person because the Seal of the Confessional must be Protected and for the Sacrament to be valid there has to be both the matter and the form which means THE PRIEST.

============================ -

"Custom examination of Conscience based upon age, sex, and vocation (single, married, priest, or religious)

"- Multiple user support with password protected accounts

"- Ability to add sins not listed in standard examination of conscience - Confession walkthrough including time of last confession in days, weeks, months, and years

"- Choose from 7 different acts of contrition

"- Custom interface for iPad

"- Full retina display support" (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/confession-a-roman-catholic/id416019676?mt=8#, accessed 02-11-2011)

Cost: $1.99

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Microsoft Acquires Skype for $8.5 Billion May 2011

In its acquisition of Skype for $8.5 billion Microsoft acquired a company founded in 2003, which never made money, changed hands many times, and came with substantial debt. 

The purchase price was roughly ten times the $860 million revenue of the company in 2010. Skype's debt was $686 million — not a problem for Microsoft.

Microsoft paid such a premium for the company because at the time of purchase Skype was growing at the rate of 500,000 new registered users per day, had 170 million connected users, with 30 million users communicating on the Skype platform concurrently. Volume of communications over the platform totaled 209 billion voice and video minutes in 2010.

"Services like Skype can cut into the carriers’ revenues because they offer easy ways to make phone calls, videoconference and send messages free over the Internet, encroaching on the ways that phone companies have traditionally made money" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/technology/16phone.html?hpw, accessed 05-16-2011).

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200 Million Tweets Per Day: 100 Fold Increase Since 2009 June 30, 2011

"Halfway through 2011, users on Twitter are now sending 200 million Tweets per day. For context on the speed of Twitter’s growth, in January of 2009, users sent two million Tweets a day, and one year ago they posted 65 million a day" (http://blog.twitter.com/2011/06/200-million-tweets-per-day.html).

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Google Acquires Smart-Phone Maker Motorola Mobility; Sells its Hardware Division in January 2014 August 15, 2011 – January 2014

On August 15, 2011 Google announced that it agreed to acquire the smart-phone manufacturer Motorola Mobility, headquarted in Libertyville, Illinois, for $12,5 billion. This was Google's largest acquisition to date.

"In a statement, Google said the deal was largely driven by the need to acquire Motorola's patent portfolio, which it said would help it defend Android against legal threats from competitors armed with their own patents. This issue has come to the fore since a consortium of technology companies led by Apple and Microsoft purchased more than 6,000 mobile-device-related patents from Nortel Networks for about $4.5 billion, in early July. Battle lines are being drawn around patents, as companies seek to protect their interests in the competitive mobile industry through litigation as well as innovation.  

"However, as people increasingly access the Web via mobile devices, the acquisition could also help Google remain central to their Web experience in the years to come. As Apple has demonstrated with its wildly popular iPhone, this is far easier to achieve if a company can control the hardware, as well as the software, people carry in their pockets. Comments made by Google executives hint that Motorola could also play a role in shaping the future of the Web in other areas—for instance, in set-top boxes. Motorola is by far Google's largest acquisition, and it takes the company into uncertain new territory. The deal is also likely to draw antitrust scrutiny because of the reach Google already has with Android, which runs on around half of all smart phones in the United States.  

"Motorola, which makes the Droid smart phone, went all-in with Google's Android platform in 2008, declaring that all of its devices would use the open-source mobile operating system.  

"Before his departure as Google CEO, Eric Schmidt had begun pressing Google employees to shift their attention to mobile. Cofounder and new CEO Larry Page seems determined to maintain this change of focus. In a conference call this morning, he told investors, 'It's no secret that Web usage is increasingly shifting to mobile devices, a trend I expect to continue. With mobility continuing to take center stage in the computing revolution, the combination with Motorola is an extremely important event in Google's continuing evolution that will drive a lot of improvements in our ability to deliver great user experiences.' " (http://www.technologyreview.com/web/38320/?nlid=nldly&nld=2011-08-16, accessed 08-17-2011).

On January 29, 2014 Larry Page, CEO of Google published in the Google Official Blog that they were selling Motorola's handset division for a multi-billion dollar loss:

"We’ve just signed an agreement to sell Motorola to Lenovo for $2.91 billion. As this is an important move for Android users everywhere, I wanted to explain why in detail. 

"We acquired Motorola in 2012 to help supercharge the Android ecosystem by creating a stronger patent portfolio for Google and great smartphones for users. Over the past 19 months, Dennis Woodside and the Motorola team have done a tremendous job reinventing the company. They’ve focused on building a smaller number of great (and great value) smartphones that consumers love. Both the Moto G and the Moto X are doing really well, and I’m very excited about the smartphone lineup for 2014. And on the intellectual property side, Motorola’s patents have helped create a level playing field, which is good news for all Android’s users and partners.

"But the smartphone market is super competitive, and to thrive it helps to be all-in when it comes to making mobile devices. It’s why we believe that Motorola will be better served by Lenovo—which has a rapidly growing smartphone business and is the largest (and fastest-growing) PC manufacturer in the world. This move will enable Google to devote our energy to driving innovation across the Android ecosystem, for the benefit of smartphone users everywhere. As a side note, this does not signal a larger shift for our other hardware efforts. The dynamics and maturity of the wearable and home markets, for example, are very different from that of the mobile industry. We’re excited by the opportunities to build amazing new products for users within these emerging ecosystems.

"Lenovo has the expertise and track record to scale Motorola into a major player within the Android ecosystem. They have a lot of experience in hardware, and they have global reach. In addition, Lenovo intends to keep Motorola’s distinct brand identity—just as they did when they acquired ThinkPad from IBM in 2005. Google will retain the vast majority of Motorola’s patents, which we will continue to use to defend the entire Android ecosystem."

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The Swedish Twitter University Begins November 14, 2011

Rachel Armstrong, architectural designer, Senior TED Fellow, Co-Director AVATAR (Advanced Virtual and Technological Architectural Research Laboratory), University of Greenwich, presented "Beyond Sustainability #STU01" at Svenska Twitteruniversititetet, the Swedish Twitter University.

The Swedish Twitter University, founded by Marcus Nilsson, conducts micro-courses that consist of 25 tweets (i.e. 140-character messages) that are presented over an appointed hour, during which the instructor addresses questions, also in the form of tweets. It is unclear whether this "university," which might more accurately be characterized as an educational forum, has any association with a physical address; it appears to exist only in cyberspace.

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More than 10 Billion Android Apps Downloaded December 6, 2011

According to the Official Google Blog, app downloads from the Android Market at the beginning of December 2011 exceeded 10 billion downloads, with a growth rate of one billion app downloads per month.

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Nearly 50% of U.S. Mobile Subscribers Own Smartphones March 29, 2012

According to a Nielsen report accessed on March 29, 2012, 49.7 percent of mobile subscribers owned smartphones as of February, 2012, an increase from 36 percent a year ago. Two-thirds of those who got a new phone in the last three months chose a smartphone over a feature phone.  Android-based phones led the U.S. smartphone market with a 48 percent share,  Apple's iPhone had 32 percent, and BlackBerry had 11.6 percent.

Source:

http://www.technolog.msnbc.msn.com/technology/technolog/half-us-cellular-subscribers-own-smartphones-nielsen-586757, accessed 03-29-2012.

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After Cell Phones With Cameras, Android Cameras- Without Cellphones- are Introduced December 19, 2012

Once cell phone cameras with their very limited lenses and image processors became the most popular means of taking photographs, mainly because cell phone images could immediately be emailed, posted to websites, social media, etc., it was probably inevitable that camera companies would introduce regular more full-featured cameras incorporating computers that could be connected to the Internet through Internet "hot spots" or cellular connections. The first models offered at the end of 2012 were full-featured and overpriced, but the concept appeared to have great potential: 

"New models from Nikon and Samsung are obvious graduates of the 'if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em' school. The Nikon Coolpix S800C ($300) and Samsung’s Galaxy Camera ($500 from AT&T, $550 from Verizon) are fascinating hybrids. They merge elements of the cellphone and the camera into something entirely new and — if these flawed 1.0 versions are any indication — very promising.  

"From the back, you could mistake both of these cameras for Android phones. The big black multitouch screen is filled with app icons. Yes, app icons. These cameras can run Angry Birds, Flipboard, Instapaper, Pandora, Firefox, GPS navigation programs and so on. You download and run them exactly the same way. (That’s right, a GPS function. “What’s the address, honey? I’ll plug it into my camera.”) But the real reason you’d want an Android camera is wirelessness. Now you can take a real photo with a real camera — and post it or send it online instantly. You eliminate the whole 'get home and transfer it to the computer' step.  

"And as long as your camera can get online, why stop there? These cameras also do a fine job of handling Web surfing, e-mail, YouTube videos, Facebook feeds and other online tasks. Well, as fine a job as a phone could do, anyway.  

"You can even make Skype video calls, although you won’t be able to see your conversation partner; the lens has to be pointing toward you. Both cameras get online using Wi-Fi hot spots. The Samsung model can also get online over the cellular networks, just like a phone, so you can upload almost anywhere" (Pogue's Posts, NYTimes.com, 12-19-2012, accessed 12-21-2012).  

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Making the iPhone 5 Look and Feel Like a Traditional Camera: the gizmon iCa case February 2013

After cell phones cameras became the most popular way of taking pictures, it was probably inevitable that a way would be found to make them look and act like cameras:

"now available for the iPhone 5, the 'gizmon iCa' polycarbonate case transforms your smartphone into a working rangefinder camera. a working shutter button is built into the top of the case - making it easy to capture images without having to pre-load the camera interface app. incorporated with a viewfinder on top of the enclosure - the design helps eliminate glare in direct sunlight, as with an additional lens opening from the flash unit. the case also ships with a second interchangeable section that allows for the fitting of any of the accessory lenses" (http://www.designboom.com/technology/the-gizmon-ica-5-case-for-the-iphone-5/, accessed 02-07-2013).

Gizmon, a division of ADPLUS Co. Ltd, Kumamoto-city, Kumamoto, Japan, also produced a series of ad-one lenses and filters for the iPhone that could be used without the iCA polycarbonate case.

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Smartphone Interactive Reading Device Will Track Eyes to Scroll Pages March 4, 2013

A much-anticipated new smartphone by Samsung, the South Korean multinational conglomerate headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul, purports to incorporate a radically new interactive reading device:

"Samsung’s next big smartphone, to be introduced this month, will have a strong focus on software. A person who has tried the phone, called the Galaxy S IV, described one feature as particularly new and exciting: Eye scrolling.

"The phone will track a user’s eyes to determine where to scroll, said a Samsung employee who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. For example, when users read articles and their eyes reach the bottom of the page, the software will automatically scroll down to reveal the next paragraphs of text.

"The source would not explain what technology was being used to track eye movements, nor did he say whether the feature would be demonstrated at the Galaxy S IV press conference, which will be held in New York on March 14. The Samsung employee said that over all, the software features of the new phone outweighed the importance of the hardware.

"Samsung’s booth at this year’s Mobile World Congress. Indeed, Samsung in January filed for a trademark in Europe for the name “Eye Scroll” (No. 011510674). It filed for the “Samsung Eye Scroll” trademark in the United States in February, where it described the service as “Computer application software having a feature of sensing eye movements and scrolling displays of mobile devices, namely, mobile phones, smartphones and tablet computers according to eye movements; digital cameras; mobile telephones; smartphones; tablet computers" (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/samsungs-new-smartphone-will-track-eyes-to-scroll-pages/?hp, accessed 03-05-2013).

When I wrote this entry in March 2013 the Wikipedia article on Samsung stated that Samsung Electronics was the "world's largest information technology company" measured by 2012 revenues. It had retained the number one position since 2009. It was also the world's largest producer of mobile phones, and the world's second largest semiconductor producer after Intel Corporation.

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Evolution of "Apple" from Primarily a Computer Manufacturer to Primarily a Phone and Tablet Company December 2013

By the end of 2013 Apple, which abandoned the word "computer" in its official name in early 2007, was only incidentally a personal computer manufacturer. In the third quarter of 2013 Mac revenue was $5.6 billion, or just 15% of the companies total revenue. At this point, Apple was primarily a smartphone company. In the same quarter, iPhone revenue topped $19.5 billion, accounting for 52% of the total for the three months.

Source: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9244875/Dark_tower_Mac_Pro_goes_on_sale_Thursday_?source=CTWNLE_nlt_wktop10_2013-12-20, accessed 12-20-2013.

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Snowden Documents Show the NSA Tracking Cellphone Locations Worldwide December 4, 2013

According to top-secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland, gathers nearly 5 billion records a day on the locations of cellphones around the world, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals, and map their relationships, in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.

"The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, and new projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool. 

"The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones “incidentally,” a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result.

"One senior collection manager, speaking on the condition of anonymity but with permission from the NSA, said 'we are getting vast volumes' of location data from around the world by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. Additionally, data are often collected from the tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad with their cellphones every year.

"In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June. Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among the people using them" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-tracking-cellphone-locations-worldwide-snowden-documents-show/2013/12/04/5492873a-5cf2-11e3-bc56-c6ca94801fac_story.html, accessed 12-06-2013).

The Washington Post provided an excellent information graphic on how NSA tracks people at this link.

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Software Turns a Smartphone into a 3D Scanner December 5, 2013

On December 5. 2013 scientists led by Marc Pollefeys, head of the Computer Vision and Geometry Group in the Institute of Visual Computing at ETH Zurich announced that they developed an app that turned an ordinary Android smartphone into a 3D scanner. Marc Pollefeys commented that two years ago software of this type would have been expected to run only on large computers. "That this works on a smartphone would have been unthinkable."

Rather than taking a regular photograph, a user moves the phone and its camera around the object being scanned, and after a few motions, a three dimensional model appears on the screen. As the user keeps moving the phone and its camera, additional images are recorded automatically, extending the wireframe of the virtual object. Because all calculations are programmed into the software, the user gets immediate feedback and can select additional viewpoints to cover missing parts of the rendering. The system utilizes the inertial sensors of the phone, extracting the camera views in real-time based on kinetic motion capture. The resulting 360 degree model can be used for visualization or augmented reality applications, or rapid prototyping with CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines and 3D printers.

Because the app worked even in low light conditions, such as in museums and churches, it was suggested that a visitor in a museum could scan a sculpture and consider it later at home or at work.

In December 2013 a YouTube video showing how the 3D scanning app worked as well as examples of 3D printed objects made from cell phone scans were available at this link.

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eCommerce Accounts for Only About 6% of Commerce in the U.S. December 20, 2013

"And yet online commerce currently accounts for only about 6 percent of all commerce in the United States. We still buy more than 90 percent of everything we purchase offline, often by handing over money or swiping a credit card in exchange for the goods we want. But the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has increasingly led to the use of digital technology to help us make those purchases, and it’s in that convergence that eBay sees its opportunity. As Donahoe puts it: ‘‘We view it actually as and. Not online, not offline: Both.’’ 

"Most people think of eBay as an online auction house, the world’s biggest garage sale, which it has been for most of its life. But since Donahoe took over in 2008, he has slowly moved the company beyond auctions, developing technology partnerships with big retailers like Home Depot, Macy’s, Toys ‘‘R’’ Us and Target and expanding eBay’s online marketplace to include reliable, returnable goods at fixed prices. (Auctions currently represent just 30 percent of the purchases made at eBay.com; the site sells 13,000 cars a week through its mobile app alone, many at fixed prices.)

"Under Donahoe, eBay has made 34 acquisitions over the last five years, most of them to provide the company and its retail partners with enhanced technology. EBay can help with the back end of websites, create interactive storefronts in real-world locations, streamline the electronic-payment process or help monitor inventory in real time. (Outsourcing some of the digital strategy and technological operations to eBay frees up companies to focus on what they presumably do best: Make and market their own products.) In select cities, eBay has also recently introduced eBay Now, an app that allows you to order goods from participating local vendors and have them delivered to your door in about an hour for a $5 fee. The company is betting its future on the idea that its interactive technology can turn shopping into a kind of entertainment, or at least make commerce something more than simply working through price-plus-shipping calculations. If eBay can get enough people into Dick’s Sporting Goods to try out a new set of golf clubs and then get them to buy those clubs in the store, instead of from Amazon, there’s a business model there. 

"A key element of eBay’s vision of the future is the digital wallet. On a basic level, having a ‘‘digital wallet’’ means paying with your phone, but it’s about a lot more than that; it’s as much a concept as a product. EBay bought PayPal in 2002, after PayPal established itself as a safe way to transfer money between people who didn’t know each other (thus facilitating eBay purchases). For the last several years, eBay has regarded digital payments through mobile devices as having the potential to change everything — to become, as David Marcus, PayPal’s president, puts it, ‘'Money 3.0'’' (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/22/magazine/ebays-strategy-for-taking-on-amazon.html?hp&_r=0, accessed 12-20-2013). 

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2014 – Present

The First Braille Cell Phone May 16, 2014

On May 16, 2014 BBC.com announced that London-based firm OwnFone of Islington, London, released what it called is the first Braille cell phone. The front and back of the phone was constructed using 3D printing techniques and could be customized. Other companies designed Braille phones in the past, but OwnFone said that its device was the first to go on sale. Initially the phone was available only in the UK at the retail price of £60. According to its inventor, Tom Sunderland, 3D printing of the front and back of the device helped to keep the costs down.

"The company, founded on the principles of simplicity, ease, andaffordability within the mobile phone market, gained notoriety back in 2012 when they introduced the first customizable handset which partially used 3D printing technology. A year later they introduced the 1stFone, which was targeted towards children ages 9-12. The 1stFone gave parents the ability to customize the device with buttons to call important people.

"This week OwnFone introduced the next device to their personalized phone lineup. This device, simply called the OwnFone Braille is specifically created for the vision impaired, and is the very first Braille phone available to consumers. Those interested, simply can go to the OwnFone website and customize the device. Once there, the customer has the option of choosing which names and numbers they would like programmed onto the main screen of the phone. The online system automatically converts English into braille. The customer can also customize the color for the face of the phone, or even add customized pictures if they choose, for a small additional £5 fee. Once created, the phone’s front and back, including the raised braille are 3D printed with stereolithography based technology. Tom Sunderland, the founder of OwnFone decided to use 3D printing because it was the cheapest method for creating hundreds of phones, all which have a different form to them" (http://3dprint.com/3930/ownfone-braille-3d-printed/, accessed 05-18-2014).

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