Humans and Health

My life in phones: a brief history of technological memories

Motorola clamshell, Nokia 1600 and Sony Ericsson k700 – a long lost generation of mobile phones that first introduced us to the technological world. Do you remember the initial excitement that pierced your heart when your fingers impatiently ripped the wrapping paper apart to reveal the one little piece of plastic that you had been dreaming of?

With the first handheld mobile phone being released in 1973 by Motorola, my parents did not grow up with them and neither did I. The first nine years of my life were passed completely phone-free, which makes me wonder why kids today can’t survive five minutes without them. This would change at the tender age of nine when my parents gave me my first phone. Eleven years and four phones later, I can honestly say that each individual device had an impact on my life in some way or another.

“remembering the grey little brick makes me feel nostalgic”

My first phone, a metallic Vodafone GX10 with antenna and also an antique of my older brother, definitely changed my young life. It stayed in my memory as being a platform for snake-playing, blurry photo taking and music sharing via Infrared. As a proud owner of something so innovative, I was finally able to message my friend, who lived next door. It marked my transition into the teenage life. My sassy flip open gesture á la gossip girl turned me into one of the popular kids (at least that’s how I saw it!).

My parents initially gave it to me so that they could call me on my way home from school. What I saw as freedom and utter coolness, was actually an extended arm of control. In the end, however, remembering the grey little brick makes me feel nostalgic, especially since it symbolises a part of my childhood. Reminiscing about what my first phone meant to me made me curious to discover what my friends thought about theirs.

For most, it was a means to talk to their family whilst being on school trips, to pass their time playing games and a depiction of ‘being really young and innocent’. Some felt similar to me, the phone was a boost for their ego, as one of my friends put it: ‘People always thought mine was deaddd cool’. For others it highlighted nostalgic transitions in life such as moving house, starting a new school and one also said that it symbolizes the ‘nativity and sadness of the people I do not talk to anymore’.

My second phone was a prepaid phone from Aldi. Not really fancy and it barely got me through the next two years after my beloved Vodafone died. The loss of a phone is not something you should underestimate. Whether it’s tiny metal heart stopped beating or someone else’s hands took it, the pain is real. A friend said to remember ‘the feeling of shittiness’ after losing an iPhone. It obviously hurts seeing £400 disappear into thin air, but what is even worse are all the memories that took the forms of music, photos, chats and contacts that get deleted from your life. This applies to me at least, because I am unable to regularly back mine up.

“I am unfortunately one of those people that got sucked into the Apple cult”

I will always connect my High School experience and my year abroad in Australia with the iPhone 4, the third in my phone family. My initial excitement about finally being part of the Apple empire was quickly overwritten by my hate for its crappy battery, low camera resolution and limited storage.  However, it still signifies the years of my life when I felt a bit lost in that weird limbo between school and University. Through figuring out what I wanted to do with my life and defending my travel plans to my parents, it was there for me. It enabled me to talk to my friends for hours during exam period and to send thousands of snap-chats documenting my adventures in the Outback.

When I finally dropped it into a bucket filled with water in the summer before University started, I was absolutely gutted. Not only did I lose a faithful companion, but also the past years of my life that were so turbulent, happy and sad. This led me to my current model: an iPhone SE (and yes, I am unfortunately one of those people that got sucked into the Apple cult – to quote my housemate: ‘Changing to Apple was basically life changing’). For the first time, I actively used my phone not only for social media but also to plan my essays and tutor meetings whilst setting notifications for deadline dates. Fully integrating it into my life, I feel more independent and grown-up than I ever have before.

“an endless series of photos taken at Crisis, late night drunk chats, and all the numbers of the people I have met at University”

 In the end, my present phone is my favourite because it simply symbolizes the person that I am right now: slightly chaotic with a tendency to reply to people’s messages after a month. However, I like it and what it has captured – an endless series of photos taken at Crisis, late night drunk chats, and all the numbers of the people I have met at University. From talking to others, I gathered that most people like a particular phone they had depending on the feelings and memories associated with it, for instance, being happy, feeling like a ‘boss woman’ or travelling the world.

My iPhone naturally will not exist forever. However, no single phone will be there for a lifetime and as we develop, our phones will too. Their lifespan is just way shorter than ours – also thanks to Apple’s manipulative scheme. In the end, I am okay with that because different devices stand for different eras in my life and let’s be honest: who would still like to use their very first phone? Those things are so 2005 and not at all who we are today.

Pia Schafer

Image Courtesy of Adam Selwood via Flickr. License here.

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Humans and HealthLifestyleScienceTechnology
One Comment
  • jezza
    14 March 2018 at 19:48
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