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Communications Handhelds Hardware

Old Mobiles — the Bad and the Ugly 108

CrazyPhrog writes "File under nostalgia? This round up of mobile hardware from days of yore includes the Dynatac ("the world's first proper mobile phone"), which looks like something likely clamped to Joan Collins' cheek in an episode of Dynasty; the frankly violent-on-the-eye jade T10, courtesy of a pre-Sony Ericsson; and the unwonderful Siemens Xelibri which looks as if it was designed to give simultaneous ear, eye and finger ache. Thankfully they really don't make 'em like they used to."
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Old Mobiles — the Bad and the Ugly

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  • You obviously mean the Zack Morris Phone.

    Post v2:

    I long for those days of simplicity! Today's phones with automatic cell handover and features (!) like mail and SMS and ringtones are useless! Give me a 12 pound block of plastic that makes calls intermittently. I'm not giving up my current phone [markdroberts.com] until they can come up with something worthy enough to replace it.
    • ..if I didn't have my StarTac in my pocket right now. When your cellphone is listed at number two in a list of mobile design classics, perhaps it may be time to get up to date.
      • by Amouth ( 879122 )
        i feel the same way...... and i got mine new about a month after it came out......
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sphealey ( 2855 )
        I have never had another cell phone that worked as well as my now-departed Motorola brick phone; particularly as an in-car phone it has never had an equal. What is amazing to me is how in just 20 years Americans have been conditioned to accept unbelievably bad phone call quality in the name of "progress".

        sPh
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by AgentPaper ( 968688 ) *
        I finally bid farewell to my StarTac last year, when the Verizon rep told me that I had to get a new phone because mine wasn't E911 compliant and would no longer be supported on their network. I had that phone for eight years, and it was the best phone I'd ever had - it did everything I wanted, nothing I didn't, made calls everywhere and got great battery life. (Amazing how long you can get a battery to last when you're not powering a color screen, camera, MP3 player and all the other garbage that's built
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I, for one, welcome our Zack Morris ASCII overlords.
      $:)[]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NetDanzr ( 619387 )
      You may be joking (I can't tell for sure; I've seen such phones still being used in cars), but you're not too far from what some of us experience. For ages, I've been using the Nokia 3589i [phonescoop.com]. My contract with Verizon has expired a long time ago, and they've been offering some new, bery compelling contracts, but I'm remaining a month-by-month customer because I don't see a reason to upgrade my phone. All I want is a wireless device I can use to place phone calls, receive them and exchange SMS messages. I d
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        For ages, I've been using the Nokia 3589i.
        Jesus Christ, they have phones with color displays now? I really need to get with the times.
      • Motorola is bringing out a new phone for india with no special features except a huge battery. It has days of standby time and like 80 hours of talk time. It's got an e-ink display to save power. I think a phone like this, possibly with bluetooth, could be the next big phone in the US since so many people (mostly old people though) want a plain phone. They're also soon to bring out a new flip phone with a color screen but no camera, no bluetooth, no mp3 support... just lower power use, better talk time, and
  • "...first came onto the market in 1984 costing nearly $4,000 and promising around a half an hour of talk time."


    Wow.. over 20 years later & we've nearly doubled the amount of talk time...!
    Yay, progress!

  • personal favorite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pimpimpim ( 811140 ) on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:55AM (#17000302)
    samsung mp3 phone from 2000 [impress.co.jp]

    It was pretty sleek for its time, 32 MB memory for mp3 files that you could upload via a LPT printer cable :) It fitted me 16 led zeppelin songs on low compression and saved my mornings and a very boring holiday. Battery life was about a day when using the mp3 function. Nice thing: it still works! The headphones broke, though, so I cannot use the mp3 function anymore, unless I get the specific replacement cable which will cost the same as the phone probably :)

    • by deval ( 982441 )
      hmm I think this was my favorite phone as well but

      The buttons were tiny
      The battery life was a joke (I carried a spare at all times)
      The UI was very strange compared with the nokia's at the time

      Could someone just please produce a phone with reasonable buttons/battery life/gui that doesnt crash and is hard to destroy or do I have to do it myself!
  • by Mikachu ( 972457 ) <burke...jeremiahj@@@gmail...com> on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:55AM (#17000306) Homepage
    I certainly wouldn't classify the Motorola StarTAC as bad or ugly. In fact, as far as mobile phones went, it was certainly ahead of its time. I remember seeing those things years and years ago... I thought they looked pretty sweet, to be honest. From the picture they have on the site, it certainly doesn't fit under bad or ugly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MtViewGuy ( 197597 )
      I think what the StarTAC did was the prove you can dramatically reduce the size of the cellphone into a small clamshell unit and still be usable. The form factor has certainly spawned competing designs from every other mobile phone manufacturer, that's to be sure.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stormhair ( 718450 )
      Although, to be fair, TFA does say "The good, the bad and the ugly...?" and not just "the bad and the ugly".
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ygthb ( 84559 )
      Had a StarTac 7868 (Then a v60), And I would love to see a modern version.

      Features:

      Very easy to hear
      If it went off in a meeting, just unclip the battery (very easy to get to)
      replacement batteries were cheap
      Bend to your liking antenna
      TruSync compatable
      TOOK A MAJOR BEATING AND CAME BACK FOR MORE.

      I carry a TREO now, and have to admit I miss the "It Just Works" and takes a beating factor of my old 7868 and V60i.

      I would love to see the sive and form recreated with a palm in the upper lid. Kyocera did somethi
      • http://www.mymotorola.co.kr/motoshow/product/show_ startac2004.asp [mymotorola.co.kr]
        Is that what you're looking for? It'll work in the States with a little effort.
      • TOOK A MAJOR BEATING AND CAME BACK FOR MORE.

        I miss my Motorola i80s. That was one heck of a phone. It was slimmer than my new Motorola and took one heck of a beating. No joke, I one time got so frustrated with it (actually the battery was getting old and it cut out on me) and threw it against a concrete wall as hard as I could. The body had a large scrape on it and the antenna was actually impacted into the phone so that I could no longger unscrew it. And yet everything still worked! Seriously, that

    • by CharlieG ( 34950 )
      I'd class it under the "Good" = best phone for the time I got it, EVER - I WISH todays phones were as good
    • by smithmc ( 451373 )

        I certainly wouldn't classify the Motorola StarTAC as bad or ugly. In fact, as far as mobile phones went, it was certainly ahead of its time.

      If I hadn't broken my StarTAC a few years back, I'd still be using it. Best cell phone (cell phone - not phone/email/fax/camera/buttscratcher) I ever had.

    • by GWBasic ( 900357 )
      If only I could get a Startac that would store email addresses and had a camera... I upgraded from my Startac because I wanted very minimal PDA function. My current phone has a camera, which I find very convenient because I take pictures instead of jotting down notes. I miss my Startac.
  • Anyone have a mirror?
  • by tttonyyy ( 726776 ) on Monday November 27, 2006 @09:04AM (#17000346) Homepage Journal
    ...I'm not interested.

    Nothing wrong with lugging a big lead-acid about with you wherever you go. Right? Hello? Anyone there?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ptbarnett ( 159784 )
      Others have modded you "funny", but you are closer to the truth than you might think.

      My first cell-phone was the Dynatac featured in the article summary. I primarily used it to call air traffic control for departure clearances from the non-towered airport where my plane was based. It made things much easier when I could taxi to the runway, do my run-up, call ATC and say: "I'm ready to take off". They could issue an immediate clearance with a short void time, and not tie up the airspace for a long time.

  • "Thankfully they really don't make 'em like they used to."

    No, these days they cram Windows CE and lots of ersatz chrome into the things. Such progress!
    • Actually...people can say what they want about all these new fangled phones versus the old ones. I just think it interesting that the reception I got on my old motorola brick was better than any of the bright and shiny ones I've had in the last 10 years.
      • Your old motorola brick was at least a 1.5W phone and probably more like 2.5 watts. Bag phones are around three. Modern phones are like 400-900mW. Didn't matter on a bag phone because you were holding it in your hand but I personally don't want a 3W transmitter next to my head. I'm not too concerned about ~500mW. If you want that kind of transmit power you're going to need to carry a much larger phone, like the olden days, in order to have the battery life.
  • On call with a over the shoulder mobile phone, car battery sized base unit, cable to the handset. Very patchy access between wollongong and sydney, fixing compaq servers and stallion boards on the way. The signal was so patchy that I couldn't call home from the pub in the center of sydney. Being on call with that pretty much meant that I was totally over the whole cell phone thing within 6 months.
  • by Jorkapp ( 684095 ) <jorkapp&hotmail,com> on Monday November 27, 2006 @09:50AM (#17000684)
    I've read through most of the posts, and the general consensus is that newer phones with more and more features are not what people want.

    I couldn't agree more.

    About 5 years ago, I bought a Audiovox CDM8150 as a cheap phone for sending/receiving calls, text messages, and some very light web browsing. It worked like a charm - I never had any problems with that phone. Unfortunately, I let the account lapse (it was prepaid), and it suffered to the fate of a dresser drawer.

    6 months ago, I was in need of a cell phone yet again. I was faced with a choice - reactivate my old one for $75+tax (but with $75 in prepaid credits), or buy a Samsung A630 for $150 with the same amount of credits. Stupidly, I thought the A630 was a better choice.

    Now, bear in mind, I bought this just before I left for basic training. What's worse was it was defective, and this wasn't apparent until about 1 week in. The A630 has an internal battery because it uses VRAM, and the internal battery was malfunctioning - causing the phone to cut off calls and randomly reboot itself even when plugged in. Bear in mind, I could not leave the base to get my phone replaced until 3 weeks later, which left me stuck to payphones until then.

    I ended up getting the phone exchanged after 31 days - 1 day over the limit (thanks to the very understanding and professional staff at TELUS) - a fresh new A630 - and it too was defective. Same problem, internal battery (this one was a little better though, I could make a 15 minute call before it cut off). Another trip into the city, and alas another A630. This one has been working well so far.

    Towards the end of basic training, I realized how much better I would have been with my old CDM8150. Considering I never downloaded images or ringtones, played any games, or did anything "new" that my CDM8150 couldn't do, I kicked myself for not having my CDM8150.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DarkVader ( 121278 )
      You know, I don't think it's that most of us really want a phone with fewer features.

      I think it's that we want the durability and voice quality of the older phones back. I had a Panasonic bag phone that lasted over 10 years, with quite a bit of bashing around. A call on that phone sounded like talking on a land line, unless you were really out in the boonies.

      These days, I've got a Motorola v551, and I like features like being able to sync my address book with iSync over Bluetooth. I use the Bluetooth hea
    • I had an Ericsson T10 as my first mobile phone - monocolor, black on green display, blue chassis. The menus were easy to navigate, the clamshell design worked wonders for keeping the phone in whatever pockets I would choose. Now I use an Sony-Ericsson T230 - bought mainly because I didn't find Nokia's menus intuitive enough. Have to keep the keypad locked, the color screen is bad (little contrast and light during day, especially in sunlight), it has no status LED (the T10 had a LED near the external antenn
      • by MsGeek ( 162936 )
        T10 rocked the house. Solid, good reception, flip thingy covering the keyboard because sometimes keylock fails. My first mobile. Mine was black, actually. Reminded me of Star Trek: The Original Series. Beam me up, Death Star.

        My husband and I now have r520m phones, running on the T-Mobile network. These were 2000 models, and they are still solid 6 years on. Batteries have ridiculous amounts of talk time and standby time.

        Eventually I am going to have to move into the Modern Era and so will my husband. My husb
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

          I don't know if there's actually been a formal study to find out if people want cellphone features or not, but all this other crap is all anecdotal. Almost everyone I know under the age of 35 would like a phone that does it all; GPS navigation, full mp3 player, camera with zoom, etc etc. I know some of you like to carry a phone, camera, and gps in your pockets, but I like them all to be in one teensy device. (Not that I have GPS in my phone yet. Too spendy.)

          I also don't want to keep the same device for

          • by MsGeek ( 162936 )
            OK, you got me. I'm of an age above what you mentioned. However, I have a reason for not liking all-in-one devices. Single point of failure. I would rather have a separate still digital camera that works like I like it, separate mobile phone, separate camcorder, separate PDA, etc. etc. If one fails I can replace it and still have the rest of the stuff working while I look for the right replacement.

            If your super mega awesome Razr dies, you lose your camera, your camcorder, your mp3 player, and your mobile ph
            • If your super mega awesome Razr dies, you lose your camera, your camcorder, your mp3 player, and your mobile phone all in one swell foop. I'd say that's a fucked situation.

              It would be a fucked situation if I didn't pay for insurance on my phone... If it dies, I can get another one, or upgrade to a newer model for the price of the new model less the cost of my phone. And since the data is stored on MicroSD I know I can get it out.

    • I had an Ericsson T39m, and then switched to a Philips 650. Both have no camera or MP3 player, are relatively lightweight, and the standby/talk time is very good. Sales apparently have been abysmal; for both phones, I actually had trouble to find a dealer that could offer them. While people may complain about more and more features in newer phones, they are apparently not willing to buy phones lacking such features.
    • Phew! [google.ca]

      At first I thought you were talking about the Motorola A630 [google.ca]. I've had this phone for about 3 months now. Admittedly that's not very long but all I can say is this is the greatest geek phone EVER! Full qwerty keyboard and a game pad slightly embossed into the keyboard [some pictures should show it OK on google] that resembles the NES controllers. My girlfriend loves to play the games that came loaded on it.

      I bought it through an online vendor [tigerdirect.ca] and can't seem to download anything from my telco that
  • Still using it [phonescoop.com] by the way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 27, 2006 @10:23AM (#17000934)
    My new Motorola FCKZOR has everything I need:

    1) Camera
    2) MP3 player
    3) Browser
    4) Games
    5) GPS navigation system
    6) Radar
    7) Television
    8) Microwave oven
    9) CD/DVD player

    Unfortunately, since it is so fashionably thin, there was no space to fit a microphone and I am unable to make calls.
  • "[..]the Xelibri also marked the start of a return to back-to-basics devices, where talking and texting were uppermost. It's a trend that's still hot in advanced markets such as Japan, where stripped-down phones like the RakuRaku concentrate on the simplest of features."

    Well, that gives me hope. The name "RakuRaku" aside, maybe I'll finally buy a cell phone then.
    • Well, I see what you mean, but this [nttdocomo.co.jp] is what they mean by a "RakuRaku" phone- apparently the Japanese have a different definition of simple. Maybe this [kddi.com] might be more suited to your definition of "simple".
      • by Abreu ( 173023 )
        Certainly the RakuRaku (if that's what its called!) is disqualified for the "simple and basic phone" competition since it has a camera!

        I currently use the Motorola C116 [motorola.com]... It has a monochrome screen, no camera, no annoying ringtones (it has basic monophonic tones), no frills...

        But it does have very good reception, a usable onboard dictionary for texting, and battery life that lets me charge it once a week, instead of twice a day.

        It seems that its a "third world model" since I couldnt find it in the USA Moto
  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Monday November 27, 2006 @10:28AM (#17000994)
    But I want my 1997 cellphone back. The earpiece was actually at my ear, and the mouthpiece was actually at my mouth, more or less. It had buttons that a full grown man could actually press one at a time. It made calls. It worked if you dropped it.

    So given the technology and network improvements, I should be able to get the same thing now with a free phone and $5/mo service with free airtime, right? {cricket chirp ... cricket chirp ...}
    • Am I the only one here who has dropped (multiple times) a new cell phone with out any ill effects? Granted it does have some scars from the concrete and asphalt but it still works just fine. I can't help but to wonder if this is a "things-in-the-old-days-were-better" issue
      • I've dropped my iPod on a variety of surfaces (ranging from concrete to tiles) and it still works without a hitch. Same goes for my Motorola RAZR.

        Interestingly, my old Archos GMini died without much dropping at all (in a strange coincidence, it died right after I bought my iPod...). Depends really.
        • Interestingly, my old Archos GMini died without much dropping at all (in a strange coincidence, it died right after I bought my iPod...). Depends really.
          It died of sadness...

      • >I can't help but to wonder if this is a
        >"things-in-the-old-days-were-better" issue

        Depends on how you look at it, I guess. For what I want in a cell phone, things actually were better in the old days (OK, not battery life, but most things).

        You may have different preferences, and that's fine. I do think that there's enough of us grumpy old guys that there would be a market for larger, simpler, cheaper phones that just make calls.
    • I have a RAZR V3i. For all the crap the RAZRs have gotten (much of which is justified) when unfolded it's one of the largest phones around and the speaker and mic are actually in the correct locations... and I'm 6'7" and have a head to scale. They also seem to have fixed the signal problems and this phone has middle-of-the-road reception. I haven't dropped mine (it's a fashion phone, I can't be scratching the mofo) but my boss has an older base RAZR (V3) and he's dropped it tons of times without damage, so

    • But I want my 1997 cellphone back. The earpiece was actually at my ear, and the mouthpiece was actually at my mouth, more or less. It had buttons that a full grown man could actually press one at a time. It made calls. It worked if you dropped it.

      How about ThinkGeek's Bluetooth Retro Handset [thinkgeek.com]? That should fix two of problems. :-) I can't help you with larger buttons, though i suppose that Jitterbug [jitterbug.com] Wireless service would fit the bill.

    • by The Mgt ( 221650 )
      I still have a 1997 cellphone. My Sony Ericsson T610 died and I've been using my uncle's old Nokia 8110i ever since. I've noticed the call quality is much better. It does have a few drawbacks though; there's no clock display and the antenna wears holes in my pocket.
  • While it's not an "golden oldie" the Siemens S46 was an excellent example of a functional phone with no silly business. The battery lasted 6 days on average despite having web browsing, IM, "daily planner" and other such toys simply because it used a monochrome screen. it was large enough that I didnt' feel like if I sneezed it would vanish but still small enough to not be a brick. It had both analog and GSM systems so it almost never dropped signal. My only whine was that it didn't have bluetooth.

    Unfor
  • was not Ericsson R380. It was Nokia 9000 Communicator (which they do mention in the article), which was released in 1996. And that's about 4 YEARS before Ericsson released R380! since they do list both, they must have some arbitary definition for "smartphone" so that R380 fits the description, whereas 9000 does not. And the last Communicator is not the 9500, 9300i is the latest model.

    And where on Earth is the Nokia 2110 [google.com] on their list? That was like THE phone for several years!
    • by MarsBar ( 6605 )

      A smartphone is a phone with some PDA features, as opposed to a PDA with some phone features.

      In other words, it works really well as a phone, less well as a PDA.

      • by 10Ghz ( 453478 )

        A smartphone is a phone with some PDA features, as opposed to a PDA with some phone features.

        So you are saying that 9000 is not a smartphone because it's PDA-functionality is too good? Had Nokia released a crappier product, then they could claim the title of "first smartphone"? I don't think that definition would fly. And as it happens, the original Communicator was a 2110 with some PDA-functionality added to it, so it was every bit as good phone as 2110 was (which was and is considered by many to be the be

  • the Startac, one of the first notable clamshell designs - a form factor arch-rival Nokia has shunned by and large to the present day.

    There are several models from Nokia which are clamshells, I counted at least 10 models on their website.

  • yes yes, get it out of your systems

  • by hey! ( 33014 )
    Wow, just look at that keyboard. I bet every key has a genuine switch, not some kind of plastic gizmo sitting over some PC board traces. Where have you seen a keyboard on anything in the last twenty years that looks that solid? Of course in present day dollars the device would cost over seven thousand dollars. In that price range, its large form factor and limited battery life is not an issue. Just hire porters to carry your spare lead acid cells.
  • I don't know the name or model but my mother will not part with her flip phone. The battery makes up the body of the phone. We shop for batteries at one specialty shop in the city about every other year. She refuses to consider any other phone because they're too small.
    • Think along the lines of the Motorola D1-527 or the Motorola MicroTAC. Can't lose it. Quick to find in a tote bag. No screen whatever. No address book. caller id? heh. It's "on" or "off", "in" or "out" of tower range. She can sweat all over it (in South Carolina) and it still functions and she can't drop it with sweaty hands. If she ever does kill it, she just stops at our local resale store and digs up another one for a few dollars, slaps the battery on and drives over to the phone store and demands the ph
  • WTF? The Xelibri looks like it should come with birth control pills!

    http://www.silicon.com/i/s4/illo/photos/2006/Novem ber/design%20classics/xelibri%20(Custom).jpg [silicon.com]
  • From TFA:
    The Sidekick... ...a popular choice Stateside, where it's best known for being hacked and spilling Paris Hilton's socialite secrets.

    But I thought Paris was like an Ubergeek, surely she couldn't have let someone hack her mobile!?!
  • T-mobile was offering one like #3 (only softer colored) when asked if they've got any free phones with their contracts. I laughed when offered this phone (4 months ago, mind you), and now I see they must have found some old forgotten stock...
  • by Eljas ( 911123 )

    I used T10s for some years, which was considered a some kind of treachery at that time in Finland. I think it was pretty good phone for its time. The screen is woefully small for SMS and searching thru the phone book was pain in the ass. But it had working voice dial, which was actually quite handy. And it came in reasonable colours too, my phone is dark blue.

    The summary is as misleading as usual, the real title of the article is "The good, the bad and the ugly...?" and it's not all about bad or ugly pho

  • I prefer old because many of the newer ones interferes my bone conduction hearing aid (Oticon 380p -- analog type; not digital). It drives me nuts to hear interferences near a cellphone. :( Analog cellphones did not do this. :(
  • The Xelibri reminds me of my wife's birth control pills' package....

    http://hardware.silicon.com/pdas/0,39024643,391643 17-8,00.htm [silicon.com]
  • Is it just me, or does the Xelibri look way too much like a monthly package of birth control pills?
  • It would have been handy if the damm writer had bothered to put dates in each writeup. Context is everything.
  • http://img.epinions.com/images/opti/0d/33/502904- e lec_lg-resized200.jpg [epinions.com] Qualcomm 2760 on Sprint. That was my first cell phone, like 5 years ago. It had no battery life, and the address book was comically limited, but once in a fit of rage I threw it as hard as I could against a concrete wall. It took a small dent on the corner and kept working just fine. The shell is made if 1/4" thick hard plastic. Can't do that with my Blackberry Pearl.
  • I remember my first (and only) experience with one. While I was making a call from the car, I keyed the mike and the windshield wipers cycled (it was a bright, cloudless day in Aug.)! Thinking this odd, I keyed the mike again with the same result. I was laughing at the time, now it makes me shiver thinking of the RF signal it must have radiated.

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