Mobile Entertainment Devices

Mobile devices – have they enhanced our lives? What would our lives be like without them? I personally feel these things are a benefit to us as humans. However, I fear they are also something that is now further isolating us from each other. They have become masks to hide behind.

It will soon be January 1st, 2020. 15 days later, I will be 70. A lot has happened in the years I’ve been around. Technologically speaking, a whole new world has evolved from electro technical inventions including internet via mobile phone. Now today most of the globe can read books, share pictures, watch television, listen to music, and go shopping on their smartphones. There are also many more resources available with these devices in people’s hands.

My 70 years are but a tiny minuscule of time compared to the time between the birth of Christ and my birth much less the span of human existence. For a young 20-year-old of today, there has been little change in the conveyances of entertainment relative to my years. Nevertheless, compared to what my grandfather saw and used; these devices today are stunningly miraculous.

So, what mobile entertainment devices existed in the 1920s?

First portable radio made by Edwin Howard Armstrong in 1923.

Edwin H. Armstrong was a pioneer of radio engineering, credited as the inventor of FM radio. In 1918 he filed a patent for the superheterodyne radio circuit common to most radios today. This technology greatly increased the sensitivity and selectivity of a radio. The above radio is said to be the first portable superheterodyne battery powered radio receiver ever made. Armstrong gave the above to his wife Marion on their 1923 honeymoon.

Subsequently, there were many and varied portable battery powered tube radios built by various manufacturers.

What was the first personal sized portable battery powered radio?

1939 Battery Operated RCA Victor BP-10 Tube Portable Radio.

Radio historians claimed that the RCA BP-10 was the first truly personal radio.

It used RCA’s first commercially available low-powered miniature tubes. It was an excellent example of art deco styling and was introduced at the legendary 1939 New York World’s Fair. It is the only radio placed in the cornerstone time capsule of the RCA R & D Center building. Many of these radios were in use prior to WWII and carried to war by many servicemen.

My radio pictured above has a manufacturing date stamp inside the bottom cover of November 1939. Subsequently, later models got bigger, rather than smaller. It would be the Japanese who would later produce a relatively tiny radio with micro tubes.

What was the first transistor radio?

Regency TR-1

The Regency TR-1 was the first commercially manufactured transistor radio. First sold in 1954, it was a novelty due to relatively small size and portability. All told, about 150,000 units were sold despite mediocre performance. This radio demonstrated the use of transistors for consumer electronics. Previously transistors had only been used in military or industrial applications. Its physical size was 3 by 5 by 1.25 inches and weighed 12 ounces including the 22.5-volt battery.

What was the first truly pocket-sized radio?

Sony TR-55

The Sony TR-55, released in 1955, was the first pocket-sized transistor radio, and the first to be made in Japan.

What was the first battery powered portable television?

1958 Philco Safari Battery Television

In 1958, Philco released the Safari, the first portable battery-operated television. It was also the first transistorized television.

What was the first battery powered portable color television?

Sony KV-5000

In 1973, Sony produced the 5-inch Trinitron KV-5000 which was the first portable battery powered color television. It used a battery pack that was optionally attached to the bottom of the TV.

What was the first personal music player?

1964 Philips EL3586

The Philips EL3586 3” Portable Battery powered reel to reel tape recorder was the first commercially available recorder that could play music with some reasonable fidelity. Unlike most small battery powered consumer rim-drive recorders of the time, this recorder had a constant speed capstan to drive the tape. Prior to this, little battery recorders were only suitable for voice recording.

What was the first battery powered cassette recorder?

Philips EL 3300 Compact Cassette Recorder

In 1963 Philips introduced a prototype in Europe in August 1963 at the Berlin Radio Show. The Philips cassette was very small making possible small battery-powered versatile recorders that could be carried anywhere. The tapes themselves had a reversible housing with maximum tape protection allowing 30 or 45 minutes of music per side. In US, Philips branded these recorders with the name NORELCO. Above is a picture of the first cassette recorder Philips EL 3300 and the first cassette BASF PES-18.

What was the first boombox?

Collectors Weekly: Where did the boombox originate?

Miles Lightwood: The boombox by its typical definition—a handled, portable, radio cassette deck with one or more speakers—was actually invented in the Netherlands by Philips in 1969. The one considered the first boombox was made so that you could record from the radio onto the cassette without having any external cables for a microphone.

All of a sudden, you’ve got a very easy music-sharing culture, and the Japanese companies basically took that idea and ran with it.

1975 JVC RC-550

Many tout the JVC RC-550 as the first portable player that’s considered to be the first urban pop-culture boombox. The RC-550 was a monster box which had a 10-inch woofer, looked mean, and had lights as well as the full package including radio, cassette recorder and external microphone input.

What was the first personal cassette player?

Sony Walkman TPS-L2

The Sony Walkman was the first truly personal cassette player that was introduced in 1979 and sold very well. It was much smaller than a portable 8-track player or earlier cassette recorders and was listened to with stereophonic headphones, unlike previous equipment which used small loudspeakers.

Over the next 30 years Sony sold over 385 million Walkmans in cassette, CD, mini-disc, and digital file versions. They were the market leaders until the introduction of Apple’s iPod.

What was the first portable digital music player?

AT&T FlashPAC PAC/AAC Digital Audio Player

The first digital music player was developed in 1996 by AT&T which initially used AT&T’s Perceptual Audio Coding (PAC) for digital music compression. But in 1997 AT&T switched to Advanced Audio Coding (AAC). At about the same time, AT&T also developed an internal web based music streaming service that allowed the subscriber to download music to FlashPAC. The AAC music downloading services later formed the foundation for the Apple iPod and iTunes.

Saehan MPMan MP3 player

The first portable MP3 player was launched in 1997 by Saehan Information Systems, which sold its “MPMan" player in Asia in spring 1998. In mid-1998, the South Korean company licensed the players for North American distribution to Eiger Labs, which rebranded them as the EigerMan F10 and F20.

What was the first smart phone?

The Simon

People didn't start using the term "smartphone" until 1995, but the first true smartphone actually made its debut three years earlier in 1992. It was called the Simon Personal Communicator, and it was created by IBM more than 15 years before Apple released the iPhone.

Ericsson R380

But it was the Ericsson R380, which debuted in 2000, that became the first product to be officially billed and marketed as a smartphone.

Apple’s First-Generation iPhone

In 2007, Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs introduced a revolutionary phone that would set an entirely new paradigm for computer-based smart phones. The look, interface, and core functionality of nearly every smartphone that would subsequently come along is in some form or another derived from the original iPhone’s touchscreen-centric design.

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G – Fall 2019
iPhone 11 Pro MAX – Fall 2019

Today one can do almost anything with their “smartphone.” They can play music, take pictures, record videos, watch TV, go shopping, book airline tickets, do banking, see and talk to friends, get advice and play games; probably more than one can do with a home PC. In fact, the phone has become most People’s personal PC/camcorder.

Now in 2020, most phones have the capability of linking up to a mouse, keyboard, monitor, and other peripherals. So, for most, there’s no need for a PC. Just plug the smartphone into a little USB HUB and your phone becomes your PC – if needed. For most, the phone will do.

But what does all this mean?

We are more connected than we’ve ever been in the history of humankind. News can travel within a matter of nanoseconds rather than hours, days, weeks, months, or years. Everyone can be a news photographer/videographer/anchor. One’s friends are but a click away. Telegrams are an ancient form of communications. Messages now fly over the airwaves via private secured conduits. Long distance calling is but a distant memory. Now the world is at our fingertips. Brick and mortar stores have been replaced by websites and package delivery. LPs and CDs are quickly becoming antiquated. Just plug your smartphone into some speakers or headphones and vast music repositories are easy to access. Need to find your way, use a GPS app and get clear instructions – anywhere on the globe.

Yes, things for most people have really changed.

But, have things changed for the better? Certainly, these devices feel really good in our hands. But have they enhanced our lives – or are they a distraction? Can we efficiently do work with our mobile devices? Are we becoming more separated from each other?

Royole 7.8 inch Foldable Smartphone

Basically and fundamentally, these devices were meant for activities while being out and about. Perusing the web, shopping, banking, corresponding, working, these are activities best done on a large display at home or in an office. Yes, I know, portable devices are getting bigger. But to remain portable, there’s a limit to their size. Even then, most Americans are in their workplace, in-transit driving a car, or they are at home. That leaves little time to comfortably use the device. Yet,

Issues with mobile devices:

  • Phone addiction - 81% of Americans now own smartphones with the average user checking their device 47 times a day.
  • Eye strain – screens are far too small to accommodate a full webpage. This requires the user to scan through resized page content.
  • Texting and driving – This has become a serious issue with driver distractions causing serious injury and death.
  • Loss of interpersonal socialization skills – It is becoming common that people are developing fewer interpersonal friends. They have many phone friends they never meet or if they knew these people in the past, they seldom if ever get together.
  • Only through the device can we share. Unlike a television, we can only share experiences and joy as well as sorrows through the device. Because the device has been designed for a single user, sharing experiences are only practical via the device itself. Though you can show another pictures on the device, it is really a personal device attuned to the user’s preferences.
  • Exorbitant monthly costs – mobile plans with data start at $50 a month limited to 2GB of data – for occasional use. Most unlimited data plans cost 75 to $80 a month per device.
  • Mobile phone service transmitting equipment is hideously expensive to install and maintain. This includes the land rental, the tower equipment, the connectivity, and the power consumption. It is believed that cable/fiber optic providers have similar issues, but this is not so. There may have been significant upfront costs, but these have been amortized over a long time. It is the mobile tower equipment that has significant ongoing costs. Also, these towers are connected to the same cable/fiber optic networks as is in our homes.
  • Exorbitant device costs – most decent smartphones start at $500 and up. It’s not the physical cost of the phone. Rather it is the research, development, and support costs producers have to recoup.
  • Fragile devises – Don’t drop your phone. Most users have an additional cost of phone insurance. Most plans start out at $200 a year with a $60 deductible.
  • Non-user replaceable components such as Batteries or cracked screens – it has become the norm to replace the phone after one or two years.
  • Non-OEM parts cannot be used to repair phones because the manufacturers build in coded chips in each part and pair them to the main processor. The phone merely stops working if a foreign part is used as a replacement in the phone.
  • New phone models almost every month – there subsequently have been 23 iPhone models released in 13 years since 2007 when the first iPhone was introduced. There are dozens of other manufacturers of phones, the major being Samsung. They have released an average of 8 to 15 models every month since 2011. They have produced quite literally over 200 device models in 9 years.
  • Obsolescence of mobile devices – Not only do phones soon become obsolete with new models having more capabilities, but cell providers and software vendors stop supporting older technologies.

The overall cost of these devices is staggering compared to other technologies. Though they have significant capabilities, their costs both monetarily and socially may outweigh their benefits.

These things really feel good to hold onto. They seem as if one can conquer the world. But this is far from the truth. They are small, restrictive, and don't really lend themselves to doing serious work.

Also, most people have internet and cable/satellite television service costing upwards of 150 to $200 a month.

One redeeming factor is 5G connectivity and the fact that the phone can be connected to PC based peripherals. This is good for a single person. However, mobile costs multiply for each additional household member. It’s easy to share a television. Most internet providers have no limit on the number of connected devices.

Basically and fundamentally, mobile networks are hideously expensive when compared to other forms of information/entertainment conveyances.

I am in no way advocating the elimination of mobile devices. Quite the contrary, I am merely saying that we as users need to examine how we pay for and use these devices.

S December 20th 2019 - Prepandemic