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[Mobile History] Think your mobile costs a lot? Here's what it was like 20 years ago! :-)

Started by: thunderdragon
On: 26/10/2018 | 15:44
Replies: 16
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by: thunderdragon
on: 26/10/2018 | 15:44 edited: 26/10/2018 | 16:33
Hey everyone! :-)
Whilst replying to my thread about SIM2 profiles on GiffGaff SIMs I found myself going into a little bit of mobile history based on how things were 20 years ago - A time when I got my first mobile phone, and had familiarised myself with how things worked at the time. :-)
In todays market - Where cheap phones cost about a tenner and network service is always an inclusive item - It's hard to believe there used to be a time when even the most basic of handsets cost the same as a current games console or household computer, and the network of the person you were calling was a very important consideration indeed! :-o

Just because a few might be interested in this, I thought I'd fork the historical part of that post into a new thread so the younger ones amongst us can see just what us old gits had to manage and pay for back in the early days. I'm sure you'd be quite surprised at just how much owing and using a mobile phone used to cost back then, especially when 500 texts + 150 mins + 500MB data + service can now be had for the same cost as a five minute call to a landline back in 1998! :-o :-)

A note about pricing: The prices below are as given in 1998 and may seem quite similar to todays at first glance. Bear in mind however that UK currency has halved in real value/purchasing power during that time thanks to inflation and the 2007 financial crisis, so to see how much the prices below would cost in todays money you need to double the amounts given - Showing that back in 1998, we were paying todays equivalent of GBP 1,00/minute for calls which were on the same network! :-o :-)

Hope ye guys enjoy the impromptu history lesson! :-D :-)
+++ ThunderDragon +++ - Wishing he still had his trusty & indestructable Motorola C520 to hand... ;-)

Reasons for having a SIM2 profile:
It's worth bearing in mind SIM2 was an amendment to the original GSM standard, and dates back to the days where handsets cost a LOT more than they do now, multi-SIM phones didn't exist at all, and mobile service was considerably more expensive than it is today. Most people didn't use mobile phones unless they were provided them by their workplaces (And that would often be a vehicle confined phone, not a portable handset - Hence the naming of Carphone Warehouse) and those which did almost always used them exclusively for business purposes as the costs made personal non-emergency use extremely prohibitive.

With this in mind; Being able to access multiple mobile accounts through the one handset saved users/businesses a lot of trouble and equipment costs, and allowed workplaces to cite "Company mobile 'phone" as a part of their staff benefits package. The idea of this was highly attractive at the time, and SIM2 (Implemented as an upgrade to the physical SIMs themselves, meaning upgrades only called for a SIM swap by post) was the most cost-effective way to deliver this.

To give an idea of handset/calling costs at the time:
The BT/Cellnet (Now O2) "Easylife" and "U" offerings were the first PAYG phones to come without an ongoing service/airtime commitment and my first handset was on "U", which in itself cost GBP 79,99 (1998 pricing; Maybe about GBP 160,00 today). This came with a Philips Diga handset, credit-card sized SIM (A Standard SIM, which went in the phone exactly like that), welcome materials/manuals and a GBP 10,00 top-up voucher to get you started, with only GBP 20,00 and GBP 50,00 top-ups on offer.
That first GBP 10,00 wouldn't get you much, mind; Calls to landlines and other Cellnet phones were charged at about 50p/minute, calls to other networks ranged from 75p/min and up (Some Voda numbers were GBP 1,00/min!), texts were 10-15p each (Depending on destination network), and data - If you were masochistic and rich enough to be able to sync your e-mail over a V.22 dial-up connenction - Was charged for by the minute as this worked in exactly the same way as placing a voice call.

Data, incidentally, worked at the butt burning rate of 150 BYTES (Characters) per second*...But only if you had a V.22 capable modem in your PC/laptop and had abnormally strong coverage/good call quality during the session. Some later handset models included a Hayes compatible built-in modem connecting via RS-232 or IRDA, but this was a very costly option indeed and those handsets would equate the iPhone X S today. :-o
(* - To put this into clearer perspective; This means that it'd take more than two hours to download a single megabyte of data, or 40 continual days to consume the data allowance in a five pound GoodyBag. At this sort of speed, refreshing WhatsApp and receiving three short text messages (No attachments/photos/voicemail) would take up the whole of your lunch break! :-o ;-)

Airtime - The hidden cost of having a mobile phone:
At the time, "Airtime" - The service of keeping your handset connected to the phone network via GSM (radio) - Was a considerable expense and usually billed-for separately (Easylife & U being the first PAYG phones to charge for this as an integral part of calling costs) and this meant other PAYG offerings at the time (One-2-One (Now T-Mobile/EE), Vodafone) included an Airtime element in their top-ups. On Vodafone - For example - A GBP 10,00 top-up would get you 30 days of service* plus about GBP 7,50 of calling credit (Good for about 15-30 mins of calling or ~80 texts; Voda had lower Minute/SMS costs as these were distinct from the airtime) and the cost of this is why mobile phones took a long time to make their way into the teenage/young adult communities. It also explains why many of my generation tend to gravitate toward SMS rather than calls, especially when the recipient is using a different network^ to the caller! :-o
(* - Calculate that in todays money, and having a working phone just for receiving calls and texts (No outbound anything) would cost GBP 5,00 a month. ^ - It was commonplace for people to give their network operator along with their number so the recipient knew how much calls to them would cost; It was considered polite and common practice at the time.)

Hope ye guys enjoyed the history lesson! :-D :-)
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Message 1 of 17
by: freedmaniac
on: 26/10/2018 | 17:18

@thunderdragon

 

But don't forget that we used to work for 25hours each day, 8 days per week !

But, you could go for a night out, have a five course meal, go on for drinks afterwards, get a taxi home.....and still have change from a shilling !!!!!

Message 2 of 17
by: revjonty
on: 26/10/2018 | 18:04 edited: 26/10/2018 | 18:06

@freedmaniac
A shilling? In 1998?
Decimalization happend in 1971, and I'm pretty sure that even the shilling sized "5 new pence" piece was gone by 98.
5p wouldn't even have bought a small gravy for your chips back then, even a plastic fork was 2p.
If I didn't know better, I'd think you're not being entirely honest with us.

@thunderdragon
I well remember my first phone, it was also a Motorola m3788, it could take 4 AA batteries instead of its nicad if you ran out of charge. It also functioned as a charger for AAs, which is why I still have it.

I think I got it in 1999, and it cost me nothing, as my brother had given me his old pager, which he'd taken out an extended warranty on, and that died with 2 weeks of warranty left.
Dixons no longer sold pagers, and so gave me the cheapest PAYG phone they had by way of compensation. It was on one2one. I think it would have been around £50 if I'd had to buy it.

Motorola_m3788

 

 

 

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Message 3 of 17
Highlighted
by: blackfive460
on: 26/10/2018 | 18:16

Ah yes, how I remember the good old Vodafone brick I got in 1995.

Airtime and talk time credit. Calls at £1 a minute. No SMS and mobile data wasn't an option.

Happy days when people only used their mobiles when they really, really had to...

Message 4 of 17
by: thunderdragon
on: 26/10/2018 | 19:02 edited: 26/10/2018 | 19:06
RevJonty wrote:
I well remember my first phone, it was also a Motorola m3788, it could take 4 AA batteries instead of its nicad if you ran out of charge. It also functioned as a charger for AAs, which is why I still have it.
@revjonty I had a Cellnet m3788 in my "Spares" box along with my c520s when I had them (As they were charger and battery cross-compatible) but lack of space and a pressing need to get rid of old stuff sadly meant they had to go in the WEEE bin a few years back. :-(
Speaking as a man whose phone died on him last Friday and has been off-comms for a week as a result, really wish I'd kept hold of the 3788 now! :-o

Funny you should mention pagers, too. Before getting my U I'd bought myself a NumberZAP pager (A Vodafone device conveying numeric messages only) and in combination with code-books proved surprisingly effective and battery efficient. It's interesting that pagers were obsolesced so soon afterward, though the VodaZAP network was still going up to around 2010-12 or so. :-o :-)
.
BlackFive460 wrote:
Airtime and talk time credit. Calls at £1 a minute. No SMS and mobile data wasn't an option.
@blackfive460 Hang on, we did have SMS! (Or at least I had it on both Cellnet and Orange) :-)
The headache for some of us (And this was a real issue with the c520) was that there was no direct access to the phone book from the SMS composer, meaning you had to copy your contacts number from the phone book entry to a piece of paper or similar (I used a pocket calculator), compose the message, then manually input the destination number prior to sending. I'd still happily go back to that today if I was falling back to my m3788! :-o :-)
.
FreedManiac wrote:
But, you could go for a night out, have a five course meal, go on for drinks afterwards, get a taxi home.....and still have change from a shilling !!!!!
Ah @freedmaniac ...I must confess I hadn't updated and was still using Sestertii at the time. It wasn't too hard to handle four of those to the Denarii, but trying to remember it was also worth five Semii and 7,5 Trien didn't half make everyday life a headache. I was such a happy man on Decimalisation Day! :-D :-p ;-)
...And the fear of us having to go back to using £/s/d is one of the 50,000 reasons for my being opposed to Brexit! :-o :-p

Anyhow, I'm pretty darn knackered after all this catch-up today...Though I see Lithium still won't let me grant Kudos for any posts I agree with. Gonna vanish in a moment I think, my eyes are so square right now! :-o :-p
+++ ThunderDragon +++
WARNING: The "Always On" GoodyBag does NOT offer unlimited data. More details Here.

i before e except after Firefox... Smiley Wink                                     German Sausage jokes: They're the Wurst!... Smiley Tongue
Message 5 of 17
by: revjonty
on: 26/10/2018 | 19:17
@thunderdragon
My pager was also numbers only, with a code book. I forget the make and model though.
I never used the codes because, well for a start off everyone who wanted to contact you would have to have a code book, and secondly you couldn't have a conversation anyway.

I just told people to send their phone number, and I'd phone them back (from the phone box at the top of the road, from which I would also receive calls at pre arranged times).
"if I ring twice and then I hang up, it means I'm scint and you'll have to phone me back"

Ah the good old days.

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Message 6 of 17
by: moominpappa
on: 26/10/2018 | 19:33

My first mobile was a Phillips Savvy on Virgin Mobile - it could send and receive text messages!

 

I think back then (2000) I was paying something like 75p per minute for the first five minutes of calls each day, then it was 15p per minute after that on PAYG.

Texts were 10p each.

 

Nice to have a bit of nostalgia!

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Message 7 of 17
by: ip633
on: 26/10/2018 | 20:06 edited: 26/10/2018 | 20:16

Calls to customer services were only free if you were on a pay monthly contract, and I can remember running out of credit whilst being placed on hold. A fiver wasted, and I didn’t even get to speak to someone.  Smiley Mad

 

I only made that mistake once though, and if my local store couldn’t resolve any issues that I might have, I would always insist on using their landline to contact customer services. 

 

I think it’s a generational thing though, and recently I was chatting with a group of teenagers, who were discussing how old children should be before they get their first mobile phone. When I reminisced about how we would often queue up to use a telephone box, I was surprised to learn that none of them had ever used a coin operated payphone. 

Message 8 of 17
by: ip633
on: 26/10/2018 | 21:29 edited: 26/10/2018 | 21:35

@revjonty wrote:


< snip>
I just told people to send their phone number, and I'd phone them back (from the phone box at the top of the road, from which I would also receive calls at pre arranged times).
"if I ring twice and then I hang up, it means I'm scint and you'll have to phone me back"

Ah the good old days.

When I look back, I can’t help wondering how we managed so well without mobile phones. Our social lives must have been well organised, as we’d just arrange a time and a place to meet up with friends, and usually be reliable enough to be there on time. 

Message 9 of 17
by: formulaone
on: 26/10/2018 | 23:03 edited: 26/10/2018 | 23:26

Haha! This is funny, I remember those days, I got my first mobile phone at the age of 10 years old (back in 1999), It was the: "Philips - BT Cellnet" (in black) from Argos Dixons (can't remember the cost) and I am pretty sure that it was on Vodafone! .... I've even still got the same number!

 

At the time I thought my first ever mobile phone was cool! ... but now? .... LOL HAHA!

Here's a link to the phone LOL

http://collection.sciencemuseum.org.uk/objects/co8401096/philips-savvy-mobile-telephone-1999-2003-mo...

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Message 10 of 17