Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Early Years of Cellular Phones

Let me dig into my olds stuffs for a bit of mobile phone history.

When Dr. Martin Cooper of Motorola unveiled the DynaTAC 8000X in 1983, it was like holding a brick near your head.


Fast forward to my college days in the early 90's, there were very few students who had mobile phones. To a phone booth was where you'd go when you want to talk to somebody. The first really portable mobile phone I saw was the Motorola MicroTAC that had a red LED display.


My parents bought from Smart their first mobile phone, the Nokia 100, in 1994. It's a 1G (first generation) mobile phone and operated in the ETACS (Extended Total Access Communication System) network. Notice that the keypad had numbers only - text messaging was not yet introduced in the Philippines. Other phones had letters on the keypad but this was mainly for writing the names of your contacts. Our Nokia 100 saved numbers only without names. This phone was purely for voice calls - no SMS, no games, no camera, no audio/video player, no internet access. Beepers from companies Pocketbell and EasyCall were very popular.

Nokia 100

In 1996, Nhoel, Sherwin, Melvin, Erik and I, bought our first 2G phone from Islacom, the Nokia 2010. It operated in the GSM network and had the new feature called SMS or text messaging. The cost was PhP 4,480 for the unit, registration and miscellaneous fees then a monthly subscription fee of PhP 180. For that amount you get 20 minutes free voice calls per month and FREE TEXT MESSAGING. The following year, Lilia (who is now my wife) grabbed a Nokia 2010 in a special promo from Globe. Then we started exchanging text messages and got married a few years after :) The introduction of text messaging spelled the end of beepers in the Philippines and with its popularity, Globe, Smart and Islacom started charging subscribers for text messages.


The SIM cards were real cards the size of credit cards that you slide in the back of the phone before you attach the Ni-Cd battery. The Ni-Cd battery alone is taller, wider and thicker than today's Nokia phones.



It's like holding a cordless phone with a telescopic antenna. At the back, Globe's SIM card from decade ago meets today’s SIM card.


Nokia phones across three mobile phone generations G1, G2, G3.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

The 5.25" Floppy Disk

This is a busy month for me. Too busy that I wasn't able join my wife and daughter when they went to Iligan last Holy Week. I spent my Holy Week in my parent's house where I had time to dig through my old stuffs that I left there after I got married. They where still neatly packed the way I kept and arranged them when I was still single. No cobwebs, no dust, thanks to my mom. Now it's time to digitize a part of history before time wears them out and finally taken away from me completely.

I started college in 1989 knowing only one kind of diskette - the now extinct 5.25 inch floppy diskette that was capable of storing 1.2MB of precious data. Pretty lame if you compare it to today's 4GB USB flash drives and 8.5GB dual-layer DVD rewritable disks.


But it was good for us back then. The computers I rented had monochrome display, no hard disk drive, no CD drive and had two 5.25" floppy disk bays. I go to school carrying a floppy disk case containing 10 diskettes - thats 12MB total capacity. What do I have in my diskette case?

  • One floppy disk serves as my boot disk containing MS-DOS 5.0, Central Point Antivirus (CPAV) and a configuration file to allocate a part of the 16MB PC memory as a 1.2MB RAMdrive where I upload my softwares for direct memory access thus eliminating the long floppy drive access time. This single 1.2MB floppy disk was my complete operating system and anti-virus. Today, this 1.2MB floppy disk is equivalent to a 20GB HDD containing Microsoft Vista and McAfee Antivirus. Full bootup to DOS prompt takes 30 seconds or less. Hehe.
  • One floppy disk for Wordstar 4.0 (equivalent to present day MS Word)
  • One floppy disk for Lotus 123 (equivalent to present day MS Excel)
  • One floppy disk for Norton Disk Doctor (same name today but bigger in size)
  • One floppy disk for OrCAD (a CAD software for drawing circuit schematics)
  • One floppy disk for PCtools (great PC hacking tool - you can find and replace common MS-DOS messages and customize it or make it Tagalog if you want)
  • One floppy disk for Turbo Pascal 5.5 (an object oriented programming language)
  • Two floppy disks for Newsmaster II (for making title pages of reports with graphics and borders)
  • A floppy or two for data and games like Testdrive, Tetris and Prince of Persia.


Early 90's Common Rental PC specs

  • Intel 80286 or 80386 processor
  • 12MHz clock speed with turbo button to beef up the speed to 25MHz
  • Loud PC system speaker capable of sounding off beeps in every possible tone immaginable - beep! beep! beep!
  • Two 5.25" floppy disk bays
  • 16MB RAM
  • no video card
  • no surround sound system
  • no CD drive
  • no headset
  • no hard disk drive
  • no LAN connection, no network games
  • no Internet, no Friendster, no Blogs, no Chat

But we were just as happy with what we have them as what students now have. It was enough. By the time I graduated college, the newer 3.5" floppy disk with 1.44MB capacity shared world domination with the 5.25" floppy disk. New rental PCs came out with one 5.25" floppy drive and one 3.5" floppy drive. Now in 2007, desktop PC specs considers 3.5" floppy drives as optional accessory and 5.25" disk drives are a thing of the past.

Let me give the 5.25" floppy disk a big Thanks for letting me survive my college days.