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“Calling From the Road” Article by Bill Beck Research Paper

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Updated: May 1st, 2021


The invention of cell phones marked a major advancement in the field of communications technology. In 1973, Martin Cooper shared his idea of a mobile device whose size was comparable to a young adult’s shoe. Cooper proved that cell phones could help to make calls without the need for telephone booths or interconnected wires. This paper analyzes the article “Calling from the Road” by Bill Beck, which was published in the Indiana Business Magazine demonstrating the usability of an early mobile phone, Oki 1150.

A Japanese company, namely, Oki Electric, brought this gadget to the U.S. in the 1980s. This new technology featured well-integrated dialing buttons, earplugs, and wires linked to a mike located near the user’s chin. According to Beck, social aspects associated with this technology ranged from enhanced business interactions to enabling people from distant places to communicate instantly via text messages and calls without the aid of wired telephone booths.

Summary of the Article

The Usability of Cell Phones in the 1980s

The article under investigation illustrates how Americans used a new mobile phone, Oki 1150, introduced to them in 1983. According to Beck, this gadget had several buttons that enabled people to dial numbers, which, in turn, linked them to their intended call recipients who had already acquired similar devices. Users enjoyed the convenience brought about by this innovative technology. For example, according to the article, people could “call from the car, the golf course, and just about anywhere else using a portable phone” (Beck).

In addition, when illustrating further the usability of this innovative technology, Bill Wheeler, the chief administrator of Cellular One Company based in Indianapolis, assures users of convenient services associated with this new technology’s systems. According to the article under study, early mobile phones had an inbuilt voice and text transmission structures that enabled people to communicate instantaneously, regardless of their recipients’ geographical locations. In addition, as Beck reveals, this device was not only portable but also could fit in one’s pocket, implying its manageable weight.

In terms of powering this gadget, the article reveals the existence of small batteries installed in cell phones. However, Beck mentions the short lifespan of mobile phone batteries that were produced in the 1980s. Nonetheless, as a new technology, it was practically possible to make calls using these devices, regardless of the length of time people engaged in phone conversations. In 1983, the convenience brought about by using this equipment informed the mass production of Oki 1150, which was well received in the market, despite its high retail price of between $1000 and $1500 (Beck). Nonetheless, the introduction of this technology in the 1980s indicated the dawn of significant social transformations regarding the way people communicated and conducted business.

Social Effects of this Technology

The article by Beck reveals various social effects that were brought about by the invention of the cell phone technology in the 1980s. For instance, the commercial production of Oki 1150 led to the social stratification of individuals who acquired one. Despite their past relations, these people exchanged contacts with one another, a situation that paved the way for frequent communication in the form of phone calls and text messages.

Consequently, due to the costly nature of this device, those who could purchase one at the cost of $1500 were regarded as wealthy (Beck). As indicated in the article being studied, the market price of phones produced in 1981 was high to the extent that many people had to wait until the cost dropped to between $300 and $600 (Beck). Hence, socialization levels rose gradually as the number of phone owners increased. Specifically, in the late 1980s, this article demonstrates the way American citizens from Indiana could access their friends and family members via calls, irrespective of the time of the day or where they were positioned in this region.

Critical Analysis of the Social Effects of this Technology

Mobile devices produced in the 1980s had implications on people’s social behaviors. For example, although the current article does not explicitly mention this issue, information related to mobile devices would help to reveal people’s conduct. The satisfaction associated with using cell phones indicates that many people could adopt the new technology in the future, regardless of their social status.

Specifically, “13 million Americans are now subscribers to some kind of cellular-communication service” (Beck), meaning that individuals are currently able to access their friends and loved ones through cell phones. Through this technology of the 1980s, the article mentions the possibility of tracking users’ movements and the nature of interactions through calls and texts. This information could indicate the way they organized their daily lives. Therefore, cell phones invented during this period made people’s social lives more predictable.

Beck’s article depicts the way the early mobile phone technology marked a new era in the manner in which people carried out their day-to-day activities. They stopped using wired telephones. Instead, they ushered in a new technology that relied on airwaves to facilitate their conversations and business activities (Alberts).

Although the article does not directly point to the future of business being solely dependent on mobile phone technology (Steyn 2), the statement “more technological breakthroughs are on the horizon” (Beck) indicates the potential impact that this invention of the 1980s had on economies. Currently, virtually all business outlets have a unique phone number attached to them for customers to use when ordering goods and services at the comfort of their homes, thanks to the initiation of the idea of cell phones in the 1980s.

However, despite the cell phone technology of the 1980s connecting more people than before, irrespective of their locations, it was not readily accessible. This article does not mention whether the rich could share their gadgets with those who could not acquire them at the mentioned cost of $1500 (Beck). Such a high cost implies that the device was more of a social status symbol, as opposed to a must-have standard communication tool accessible by low-income earners.

Chronological explorations that led to the development of the first mobile phone cannot be ignored. The article being examined reveals the huge role they played in informing the initiation of revolutionary ideas, which resulted in the implementation of the cell phone technology of the 1980s. This development ended up interconnecting people not only in Indiana but also across the world.

A decade before the commercial production of the first cell phone, this article presents Motorola Company’s efforts of conducting experiments in the Windy City using various military radio phones with a view to finding out whether gadgets produced could be supplied in bulk to the market. Beck agrees that the current interconnectedness of people across the world through advanced cell phone devices would not have been possible without the launch of the Oki 1150, despite the witnessed challenges. For instance, users complained about portability and battery life issues. Nevertheless, these limitations were addressed by adjusting the size of cell phones and upgrading their charging systems. This progress suggested that the world would later be introduced to lightweight and reliable cell phones.

According to the article by Beck, one can draw the conclusion that the invention of cell phones in the 1980s paved the way for digital technologies, including the many varieties of present-day social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram among others, which have helped to bring groups of people together. According to this article, it was crucial to embark on “converting the system from analog to digital service” (Beck) as a move towards enhancing communities’ social developments. However, despite the article under investigation suggesting that this technology of the 1980s increased people’s social interactions, Beck does not demonstrate the extent to which it informed the introduction of digital platforms that could be run on cell phones to influence major aspects in the socio-economic domain.


The need for enhancing society’s mode of interaction led to the development of the cell phone. This advancement was a culmination of significant research efforts by various companies, including Motorola Company. According to the article analyzed in this paper, the first cell phone underwent various modifications to enhance its usability while at the same time boosting the underlying social impacts. As a result, despite battery challenges and size limitations, the product was an indication of the possibility of the world witnessing major transformations regarding the way individuals communicated, socialized, and conducted business. However, the social effects of this technology remain open to scholarly discussions due to the current growth of digital platforms.

Works Cited

Alberts, Hana R. “New York Post. 2018. Web.

Beck, Bill. “Calling from the Road.” Indiana Business Magazine, Dec. 1993. Web.

Steyn, Jacques. “A Critique of the Claims about Mobile Phones and Kerala Fishermen: The Importance of the Context of Complex Social Systems.” EJISDC, vol. 74, no. 3, 2016, pp. 1-31.

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