Live another day

Remember these golden oldies? BT More took some of the oldest mobile handsets, inserted new SIM cards into them and tried out various features. The results are worth a read.

Bibek Bhattacharya | Print Edition: January 27, 2008

Thick as a brick

Old is gold
Old is gold
They were among the first mobile phones to hit the market. Ones you were using almost a decade ago. You wouldn’t see them nowadays except in an e-waste dump or at a used phone dealer’s. But even as the last five years have seen a proliferation of multimedia phones, flip-tops, touch screens and what have you, folks still fondly recall times when the difference between a pager and a cell phone was that you could also call from the latter. Here’s a look at some of those old symbols of a brave new world.

Nokia 5110

Nokia 5110
Nokia 5110
Nostalgia factor: Not quite the grand-daddy of them all but close enough. At one point, this was said to be the most popular cell phone in the world. Most of the basic things we associate with a mobile phone, like the SMS, is thanks to this iconic phone.

What we could do: What was so cool about it, apart from the fact that it could be handy as a weapon of self-defence? Well, for starters, it is extremely durable. Believe me, there are countless tales of the Nokia 5110 falling down staircases and surviving without a scratch. Sending a message was the easiest thing in the world, something that Nokia has generally continued with its subsequent generation of phones. Its dialling interface, too, is very simple, with large buttons to guide you.

What we couldn't do: Compared to phones now, the services the 5110 offered were pretty humble. You could make calls, send messages, play ‘snake’ and keep reminders. Its display screen is pretty small compared to most Nokia phones today. And the size! Suffice to say that this phone has marred many an appearance with its bulky frame. And yes, you can’t send an MMS, or store more than 100 numbers.

Motorola T190

Nostalgia factor: Available around the turn of the century. Many people still have a soft corner for this little compact phone, weighing a mere 99 gms as opposed to the larger phones you’d get then. It looked quite good too, housed in its translucent plastic case, which was one differentiating factor from its lower cost version, the T191.

What we could do: All the standard functions were basically easy to use. Making calls were not a problem as it had a very easy-to-use phonebook interface and numbers were easy to store as well as easy to access. Actually, it was far less complicated to use than most phones today. Although the menu was not numbered, there were nine shortcuts available, which helped you to access the desired function.

What we couldn't do: A successor to the popular CD930, one of the firstever small mobiles, the T190 did not evolve much in terms of specifications. Typing on the small keypads was a pain. The screen was unimaginably tiny, and trying to make out the words put a lot of strain on your eyes. The battery life was quite good with a standby time of 120 hours.

Panasonic GD92

Nostalgia factor: This pretty phone had a much larger screen than others of its generation (issued in 2000) and for a while was quite in vogue with its stylishly slim body (a refreshing change from all the bulky phones around then) and was much more advanced ergonomically.

What we could do: This boasted of features that you didn’t find in phones then, like voice memo, Dictaphone, and caller ID graphics. Another stand-out feature was that you could check your e-mail. This feature, primitive though it was, was a shocker then and still is one.

What we couldn’t do: You couldn’t play games on it. Does it get more depressing than this? And yes, you couldn’t do simple things like send or receive pictures.

Benefon Twin

Nostalgia factor: You might not have seen too many of these when they were available around 2000, but they were a favourite with users. Made in Finland, these came in bright primary colours—apart from the standard black—that added a lot to their charm.

What we could do: Like all mobile phones of that era, the screen was tiny, but the other specifications more than made up. For one, the phonebook could store twice as many phone numbers than others (255 to be precise), thanks to its dual-SIM tech. Running on a dual battery, the phone offered a much higher battery life.

What we couldn’t do: Sending messages from these were never easy. To get to the typing pane required at least two more touches. And another mystifying “non-feature”—it didn’t have a vibrator mode. Of course, you could never send or receive an MMS or even dream of listening to FM on this device.

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