I remember the night I was gifted my first mobile phone. Mum, Dad and I were sitting at a local restaurant – fine dinning, with while table cloths and polished silver to boot – and I had just been announced as (Co-) Captain of my school. I was super excited, but also bummed because I’d really wanted House Captain of my house, Oswald, so I could spend my time making up chants and buying green pom-poms and get kudos for it. But there I was, co-captain of the Junior School. And all that responsibility and achievement in my parents’ eyes had merited my very first cellular telephone. I. Was. Stoked. Not a lot of my 11-year-old friends had a mobile phone, but I distinctly remember one friend who had the prized Nokia 3200, one of those ones where you could change the cover and even collage your own on paper and stick it under that wonderful plastic backing. And the game of the moment was Bounce. Fuck, I loved Bounce. Getting that little red ball over jumps and passing levels. I remember when I finally finished the game (ie. completed all the levels), I felt like I’d won the lottery. Bounce was kind of a progression from the Old School Snake (an example of a game that has disintegrated and disappointed thousands of kids across the globe through it’s reincarnations). I played snake on my mum’s Nokia 3410, which she got as part of her work plan. Now I’m more of a Sudoku kinda gal. Gotta love a bit of Sudoku when you can’t sleep at night.
But my obsession with all things mobile started prior to my school captain election, in Year Five. We were given the task of our own personal project. We could research, write up and present to the class on any topic we wanted. So while most sensible girls chose to study volcanoes and make cool explosions with bicarbonate soda happen on classroom tables, I set out to ‘prove’ to my parents I needed a mobile phone. The truth be told, I did very little actual research for that project and I don’t know how I got a good mark for it because the teacher must have known I was full of crap. I remember sitting in front of our old, big, blue-backed Mac in my dad’s studio, typing up lines that were founded and composed completely from my imagination. Obviously a bibliography was not important in Year Five, or if it was on the criteria, it certainly wasn’t checked prior to marking. I probably just bullshitted and wrote http://www.nokia.com, http://www.sonyericsson.com and http://www.telstra.com without even clicking a button. So from memory, I ‘analysed’ the best plans to go on, the benefits of Telstra vs. Nokia (clearly not comparable ‘items’ one being a provider and one being a phone manufacturer), and printed and cut out pictures of phones I thought were pretty cool and would look good in my hot little hands. Pretty hilarious nearly a decade on. Since then Sony Ericsson has dropped the Ericsson and Nokia’s have been largely superseded by the infamous iPhone and it’s competitors. But the aim of my project was to get a phone. And I guess it worked.
My first phone was the Nokia 2600. I remember taking it home, opening up the manual and letting it ‘fully charge’ over a no doubt sleepless night. It lit up for the first time and I went to school a very happy chap. Not long after, I got a Roxy lanyard and a purple Von Dutch cover for my buddy, and I was right up there with the cool kids. Who could resist a girl with a cellular in her pocket?
In the summer between Years Five and Six, my family took a trip all the way up the east coast of Australia. We stopped off in Canberra, and then drove for two full days before reaching the Sunshine Coast. I think that entire summer I spent only $10. I reached the end of my credit period (my phone was prepaid) with over $80 left. I was economical and responsible, and I was proud. I also was highly antisocial and rude to anybody that texted me as I’d only reply to the most important of messages, things that deserved a reply. I don’t think I ever made a phone call. It was all about the texting. I remember my aunt and grandmother commenting on how good I was with my phone use, and my younger cousins being jealous of my new acquisition. My mum was so happy with my (bare minimum) usage, and I managed to keep it up for quite a long time. I think I mainly used it to tell the time and played around with all the settings and the screen savers. Oh, and the games.
At the time, personalising your ringtone was just about the coolest thing you could ever dream of. I remember being excited when I got my 2600 because the manual said it had polyphonic ringtones. My mum’s stock standard 3410 was only capable of blasting monophonic brutalities of Bach and Mozart, whereas I could have Rhumba and Calypso. Life was a dream. Television ads selling ringtones and tacky screensavers were common, and watching late at night gave one options some might consider verging on pornographic, suitable for Adult Viewers only. I remember visiting the Vodafone store on my phone and laboriously considering ringtone after ringtone, wondering whether it would be worth all of those $3, and if it would unknowingly find me in a situation of monthly deductions from my $10 allowance. I don’t remember ever making the purchase. It was probably for the best. Mobile phone providers and fellows seem to have a knack when it comes to scheming and reeling in customers unawares.
But things got complicated when other friends got the Nokia 6101, and similar phones that had more impressive features than my 2600. Infrared was never really used amongst my cohort, but Bluetooth became all the rage. Flip phones were ‘in’ and my lanyard was pulling me back. So my jealously and I grew simultaneously. On another note, for some reason, Year Six saw a rebirth of the Tamagotchi. And I refused to get one, because I wanted to be the first one to be ‘over’ it. You see I was ahead of the pack in other ways. I’m still kind of like that, refusing to get involved in things because I want to be the first one who’s passed it. I tried this with Instagram and succeeded for a while. I thought it was pretentious. But whom am I kidding? Photos of food, feet and (duck) faces are sadly addictive (and eat up my data allowance every month).
With Year Seven came new friends, a new experience despite being at the same school, and new mobile phone trends. Around this time, Orange was phased out and 3 because the hottest provider. Friends held their mobiles together tight when transferring songs via Bluetooth, much like one did with a Tamagotchi. The strength of the Bluetooth signal wasn’t revealed until later, when we realized immediate proximity wasn’t as necessary as we’d previously thought. I remember pressing play for Anthony Callea’s Rain on my portable CD player and holding my phone next to the speakers to try and record an enviable ringtone. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, one, because it sounded like crackly shit, and two, because apparently, Anthony Callea was in fact not cool. At the same time, I unfortunately made my email address about him, and created a Piczo site with the URL of ‘mscallea’. Obviously my priorities were in tact, and my preference in guys, spot on. When I found out he was gay I was pretty devastated.
My Year Three teacher’s fiancé had proposed to her while he was swimming in the shark tank at the Melbourne Aquarium. And he worked for Sony Ericsson. So basically, I thought the company must have been pretty sweet to get a guy like him. I got my Sony Ericsson z550 as a present from my grandmother around Year Eight. Super happy to get a phone with Bluetooth (and a camera!), I was all over that shit. Until the first one had a technical malfunction. And the second one, I dropped straight into a glass of water at a restaurant, in front of the grandmother who’d purchased the product for me. And the third one, which was stolen. Boo.
I called my number from my mum’s phone after realizing it’d been stolen and the guy who’d stolen it answered it with “Fuck off, Mum”. Obviously it’d said ‘Mum calling’. I cried. I also remember losing one yellow and one metallic green Haviana thong that night. Should have thought about being trendy and indie, wearing one of each before realizing that I’d be stuck with a permanently mismatching pair of thongs as a result. You live and you learn.
Throughout the rest of Year Eight and Year Nine, I made my way through a number of friends and family member’s old phones. None of them were memorable, and many were largely unworkable, too. I chose to go the summer between these two years, mobile free. I was again, pretty ahead of the game, but maybe by 200 years or something (will they ever be entirely superseded?) and it kind of sucked when I couldn’t wish a friend happy birthday because I was stuck in northern New South Wales without access to another phone. I thought she’d hate me after that. To my surprise, we happened to be mature enough to move our friendship beyond it.
My next new (read: store bought) phone was the oh-so-common silver Nokia 3110, probably still living an infrequent existence today. It came with a Casino Royale theme and got me through the long days, late nights and drunken calls of Year Ten. Its camera was sharp and enabled me to have crappy techno music as my ringtone, so I was sufficiently happy. With this as my staple, I seemed to pass over the various editions of the fad, pink Motorola Razr’s which greeted you with “Hello, Moto” each time someone turned them on. Additionally, I missed the craze of slide phones and the Nokia E Series. That was definitely due to my insistence that I would not get something that everyone else had. Instead, in 2010, I got the Blackberry Curve 8520, which I never turned off silent or vibrate, so much so that when I passed it onto my mum the next year and heard it ring, it’s sound was foreign and unrecognizable.
My Blackberry saw me through hard times and some months my $29 cap was barely dented. I have always had a thing about saving messages, and it has been very rare that I ever delete one. I’m sentimental and a hoarder. Not the greatest trait to have but technology comes with a lot of memory these days, so why delete if it isn’t necessary? I loved its trace/sense mouse and enjoyed the having the full QWERTY keyboard to twiddle my thumbs over. I got into apps with my Blackberry, most notably Facebook, which I had unlimited access to. I also checked my email and did a few web-based things on it but it was pretty clear that it was a man’s phone, a business phone. Is that sexist? Probably.
Just after finishing school, I got a car and finally rose to meet the iPhone trend. I decided holding back from this one for the sake of individuality would actually be stupid rather than self-proving. And I’m so glad I did. I do use folders under the titles of Utilities, Reference, Games, News, Uni & Work, Photography, Melbourne, Sound and Health, but some of the apps don’t really fit into the folder they’re found in. Facebook and Twitter are out there on their own, showing their significance, and the frequency of which I use them. After placing such a focus on transferring music via Bluetooth in the past and making sure you had enough memory to do to, the iPod is now an inherent feature of the iPhone. Alongside its touchscreen, it’s almost strange to imagine being without it. And from monophonic tones through to techno trash, I now settle for the factory default ringtone and message tone. I’ve never even bothered to look twice. I love the Do Not Disturb setting, and the way everything syncs with my beloved MacBook Pro, including iMessage working across Apple platforms. My iPhone 4s completes me. We are engaged and in love. And it’s the greatest, most superficial and one-sided relationship I’ve ever had.
I don’t know if I’m part of Generation Y, or Generation Z, or the Techno Generation. But I know that my generation’s use of mobile phones, living in a developed country, has evolved as I have. My friends and I have gone from playing games on each other’s phones, to asking to look at another’s phone and pretend to be playing games while really reading messages to find out what they’re hiding, and have now reached a stage where our mobile phone ownership and use is fairly independent from one another, if not incredibly dependent on the device itself. But it’s the way of the world. And nothing’s going to stop its constant evolution. But as a consequence, the next time someone fails to reply to your message within a few hours, you’d be pretty right to think they‘re hating on you. But in the same respect, don’t be one of those people who sends messages consisting only of question marks. Because no one likes a hassle-r. So save yourself. Because that’s one reputation you’ll struggle to lose.