The History of the Cellphone

by Rebecca Jane Stokes

Year: 2001
Model: Nokia 5510

Characteristics: Predictive text, Bluetooth compatible, features first-of-its-kind music player.

User Profile: 17-year-old high school graduate waiting for college to start. Went through high school as That Girl Who Is Always Saying “You guys, I have to get home by 12. Seriously though. It’s 11:45 p.m. My parents are going to murder me. Jon Benet-style. Guys, seriously. I have church tomorrow. Seriously.” Upon high school graduation, this model was used as both a reward and a ploy to ensure 17-year-old girl keeps in touch with her parents while away at college.

Memory: Device was used for a month and a half period. During this time, the 17-year-old always hoped that this One Guy would call. He didn’t, but at that point it was okay because no one was really calling or texting, it was more of an analyze-his-AIM-away-message-for-substantive content kind of world.

Bugs: Upon arriving at college, the 17-year-old learned that there were no towers for cell phones in the picturesque Southern Mountain town she was to reside within. The realization that the gift had been a short-term con was only ameliorated by her asshole decision to maybe never call her parents basically ever.

Year: 2002
Model: Motorola Flip

Characteristics: Built in camera, flip-phone. Predictive Text. Speakerphone.

User Profile: After a year of radio silence, the advent of towers at small picturesque Southern mountain town coalesced with her desperate parents’ desire to know that their child was alive, and an 18-year-old jerk was issued a second phone on the family plan.

Memory: It was rarely used, except for once when the 18-year-old jerk picked it up in the middle of a sorority meeting and had a full-on conversation with her mom about her week. This had less to do with the 18-year old’s continued jerk-ish behavior, and more to do with her feelings about being in a sorority.

Bugs: No passcode required. After the 18-year-old jerk experimented with tequila, she called That One Guy from high school and berated him between fits of weeping for a total of one hundred and twenty phone-to-phone minutes. The next day his girlfriend called to make sure the 18-year-old jerk was okay.

Year: 2006
Model: Virgin Pay N’ Go

Characteristics: Contract free, no SIM card, disposable.

User Profile: A 22-year-old grad student gets own phone plan but keeps her old number because the last four digits are the year the plague struck medieval Spain. Makes thirty dollars a week as a grad student and feasts upon a mixed diet of own tears and sometimes grilled almost-cheese. Company shuts off phone and while the 22-year-old grad student had gathered enough to pay the bill itself, she didn’t have enough to pay the reactivation fee. Much yelling of the evil of feudal lords was uttered nonsensically.

Memory: Purchased at now-defunct union Square Virgin Superstore. The pay n’ go was a disposable phone, or, as the kids said, a “burner.” People kept asking her if she was A) a drug dealer or B) Veronica Mars. The 22-year-old grad student responded with, “Whatever you guys, it looks awesome and spies have them.” Clearly an attempt to convince herself it was awesome when really the opposite of this was the case. Also, 22-year-old grad student missed her old phone number, as “7728” had no interesting trivia associated with it, being nothing other than the numerical component of the “7728 Gimblin,” the main belt-asteroid discovered in the early ‘70s.

Bugs: Sent out a mass text telling everyone her new number, hoping that This Other Guy would take this as incentive to call and ask her out on a date. Instead this girl she knew through another girl texted and said “Who is this?” The 22-year-old grad student recycled the phone when she realized it was a money pit, and borrowed money to reactivate the old account. Sent out another mass text being all “JK, my number has not changed,” which nobody responded to.

Year: 2008
Model: iPhone, the original

Characteristics: Apple’s original, all-in-one smartphone device.

User Profile: The 24-year-old graduate student sees that This Dirty Writer Guy she wanted to go sailing and procreate and buy golden retrievers with got an iPhone and played with it all the time. She liked how it gave her the opportunity to stare at his incongruously super-long and beautiful eyelashes — why do guys who look like Hemingway’s manlier brother always have those?

Memory: Used her tax refund to buy one and so form object transference connection with Dirty Writer Guy. The next month the new model came out, which he quickly purchased. The 24-year-old graduate student co-slept in her lofted Ikea bed with her outdated model, and when her Astoria apartment became infested with mosquitoes used its light to spot them for strategic murdering purposes. She took the case off for the first time while in Tennessee for a friend’s wedding to listen to music in the car. On the walk from the car to the restaurant where they were all meeting to eat BBQ that Elvis loved, she dropped it face down on the brick walkway and it shattered.

Bugs: The dry rub wasn’t even that awesome.

Year: 2009
Model: iPhone 3GS

Characteristics: Apple’s all-in-one, original smartphone, now featuring 3G technology.

User Profile: A 25-year-old unemployed woman, recent recipient of an MFA and a well-timed upgrade policy.

Memory: Had it for a week during which time she was vocally resentful of its new plastic backing. By week two, she hated it. Week three the 25-year-old unemployed woman got drunk on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and took a cab back to Brooklyn where she “totally accidentally” left it the cab, causing many who knew her gently suggest that she give up drinking when she decided to have kids.

Bugs: The 25-year-old unemployed woman called it and called it and finally a man answered — he said “Hello?” and she said “Hello?” and he hung up, but not before she decided that he had sounded just like the actor Justin Long. She deactivated the phone and talked to the customer service agent at Apple about Elvis Costello for a little bit. She has hated Justin Long and appreciated “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding?” ever since.

Year: 2009
Model: iPhone 3GS

Characteristics: Ibid.

User Profile: Ibid.

Memory: While the same model, this phone was proactively treated with respect and maturity by the 25-year-old unemployed woman. She bought it The Best Case — though it was unspeakably ugly — and a matte UV protector for the screen. She texted her best friend on this phone to say she was in love with him, and then they tried to hang out like normal a couple more times but then came the time they split a bottle of rose after seeing a play she wrote with him, and she started yelling at him and realized this wasn’t going to work, and they agreed through a slow cessation of calls and texts not to be friends anymore.

Bugs: She walked home from a ridiculous Park Slope bar to her home in Cobble Hill and considered throwing the phone into the Gowanus canal, but that felt like maybe a hollow gesture. She also called her parents on this phone to tell them about the tumor in her brain and they couldn’t hear her over the construction happening outside of Beth Israel, so she had to scream that it was benign and that she’d be fine and of course the construction stopped right then. Also This Hot Guy sent her a photo of his junk so that was pretty okay.

Year: 2012
Model: iPhone 4

Characteristics: Apple’s original, all-in-one smartphone, but chunkier, and also without SIRI but with Facetime, which is pretty okay.

User Profile: A 28-year-old woman trapped in a dead-end job with excellent health insurance, divides her time checking device constantly and watching any number of HBO dramedies.

Memory: She bought the white version this time and a white case, and that makes her feel like Karl Lagerfeld for some reason. This Other Kid sent her a really great Facebook message that she read but didn’t answer on this phone because she feels like maybe it deserves the full attention of all her digits and also because she is a coward. She bought tickets to Jack White next Friday on this phone, and laughed because it felt just like an Apple commercial.

Bugs: N/A. User does not have the numbers of anyone she doesn’t ever actually speak to on it. Her wallpaper is Woolla from the underappreciated Cinematic Classic, John Carter. Also she found out that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are engaged on this phone, the same day that she also got an email from Astrology Zone letting her know that an important change was in the air — theorizes that she will never have to buy another phone again, and that possibly love is real.

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn. She’s an editor at Fempop, and spends a large amount of her time pretending to be a mildly evil cat on the internet.