The early/late 2000s was a great time to be a living Kenyan. The Kenyan experience was quite something, from the rampant infrastructural growth that was acutely felt in the country (evidenced by the construction of Thika Road amongst a myriad of other high profile infrastructural/industrial developments) to the many political progressions and advancements that shaped the system we have today (the devolution of the government which was epitomized by bananas and oranges, bananas being for the lot that was for the devolution, oranges being for those who were against it), there are a plethora of smilable moments that went on to define this unforgettable period. Among these retro memories, one of the most outstanding recollection in the hearts and minds of many Kenyan was the mobile phone frenzy that erupted around the early to mid-2000.
A recent string of tweets with the trending hashtag #JumiaPhonesTBT has prompted a spew of thrilling online conversations about the mobile phone outburst in the country. Reading these tweets had me realize on the far we’ve come in terms of cell phone connectivity. I had a few chuckles reminiscent on the simple, but not too distant, times of 2G network coverage and infrared file transfer.
Back then, whether it was your local mama mboga or a fellow passenger in the matatu, not a day would go by before hearing a Nokia tune call or message alert. Nokia 1110 was the main for this trend. It was a hardy/ chunky phone with a bold personality and a ton of attitude. Of course, I would know this better than anyone else because it was the first phone I ever had genuine contact with. The device used a basic Global System Mobile Communication protocol which was compatible with its 2G digital cellular networks. It came equipped with a traditional navigation pad which enabled access to various software compartments within the device as opposed to the qwerty keypad we are all accustomed to today. Texting was a major pain back then because the old format keypad had number buttons and within them were three to four letters. The trick was to press the button multiple times until your preferred letter pops up on the screen, and believe me when I say this was just about as daunting of a challenge as finding an airtel money agent, anywhere on the face of this earth. Other additional features included a 50 limit message inbox and drafts, an alarm, a 50 capacity contact list, a calculator and of course, the highly esteemed gaming section which came with two prolific games (Snake 2 and Space Impact+) which brought a whole new meaning to connecting and bonding with young nieces and nephews. It wouldn’t be a complete family gathering if a child didn’t ask you for your phone to play games.
Besides Nokia, other brands like Samsung and Motorolla also had a good chunk of the mobile phone industry. The Nokia 1110, however, towers over all the other makes and models as it has hit global recognition for having sold over 250 Million pieces since its year of production in late 2003. This statistic has dubbed it the honor of being the worlds best-selling handset. Its production has since been ceased since 2009.
With the ever-advancing digital front, one can only imagine the future of cellular connectivity. We are now living in the fast age of smartphones and I-Pads, an age that would have previously been thought to be in a much distant future than the current one by our predecessors. Phones and other wireless devices are now able to cater to a much wider range of functionality from touch-sensitive keypads to facial-recognition functionality and with the global booming of the internet, the possibilities of a global village through cellular connectivity are continuously reinvented and refined through features like video conferencing. Amidst all this, there seems to be a recurring thought that maybe the progression of cellular innovation has reached its saturation point. I find this to be a major bluff. In as much as we think that the current state of cellular connectivity cannot be further improved, there are far too many emerging technologies that we are yet to be made feasible in the new, upcoming models.
Holograms and virtual reality are a perfect place to start. How great would it be to see a virtual image of the person or people you are communicating with? Imagine the level of realism. In a slightly bastardized version of Neil Armstrong cliched statement, it would be a small step for futuristic cellular innovation and a big leap towards making the world a more digitally interconnected space for the benefit of the whole human race. In closing, I would like to say that we should always pay homage to where we started from, but we should always maintain a sense of futurism and foresightedness for the extended convenience of the times hereafter.