This wiki is an overview of the cell phone and some of the effects it has had on the lives of the many people who use it. It’s mission is to examine the uses of cell phones in our society, from gathering groups of people in protest, to storing music, movies, and our daily routine while we make a phone call.

A mobile or cellular telephone is, by definition, a long-range, portable electronic device for personal telecommunications over long distances. In laden terms, it is a cordless phone you can carry around in your pocket. This day and age the cell phone, as most have come to refer to it as, is owned by almost everyone. The owners range from elementary school students all the way to senior citizens. Most current mobile phones connect to a cellular network of base stations, or cell sites, which is in turn interconnected to the public switched telephone network, or PSTN. The exception of these would be satellite phones.

Throughout the progression of technology there have been great strides in cellular phone advancements. Features seem almost endless and will only continue to advance and become more numerous. Because cell phones are so popular and used by 2/3 of the United States adult population, issues such as tracking, etiquette, and smart mobbing have become synonymous with cellular devices.

History of Cellular Phones

The beginning history of cell phones can be traced back as far as the 1940’s. In the middle of the 20th century, the innovation comes from two way radios used in taxi cabs, police vehicles, and other service vehicles of the time. Along with this, according to the article, What is the History of Cell Phones,” Early cell phone communication technology could be even traced back to individuals with special radios that can patch into a phone line via live operator to make a phone call” [| 3]. These early instances of cell phone use had neither the power or range of our modern cell phones, but soon after the technology took off.

In 1947, the FCC or Federal Communications Commission, turned down a request by AT&T to allocate more radio-spectrum frequencies for use by cell phones. At the time, only twenty-three cellular conversations could be going on at one time [| 1]. This limitation was kept in effect until 1968 when, according to Mary Bellis, author of Selling the Cell Phone, “The FCC reconsidered its position in 1968, stating "if the technology to build a better mobile service works, we will increase the frequencies allocation, freeing the airwaves for more mobile phones"” [| 1].

When the news broke that the FCC would reconsider its position, and in 1970 AT&T and their research firm, Bell Labs, immediately proposed a system that would require the construction of individual towers to cover “cells.” As a call was placed, it would be transferred from tower to tower, thus using much less of the frequency that previously thought possible, and still cover a vast area through the network of towers [| 1].

The first cell phone call came three years later when Martin Cooper, a portible product designer for Motorola, placed a call while walking down the street in New York City. His first ever cellular phone call was placed to his rivals at Bell Labs. According to the article, The History of Cell Phones – A Vision Realized, “Mr. Cooper commented, "As I walked down the street while talking on the phone, sophisticated New Yorkers gaped at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call. Remember that in 1973, there weren't cordless telephones or cellular phones. I made numerous calls, including one where I crossed the street while talking to a New York radio reporter - probably one of the more dangerous things I have ever done in my life"” [| 2]. This phone call sparked a revolution in the way we would go about communicating with one another, and after ten years the first cell phone was available on the commercial market. The Motorola Dyna-Tac weighed in at 16 ounces, nearly half the weight of the cell phone used by Mr. Cooper on his historic first call, and cost consumers $3,500. The battery held a charge worth 35 minutes of talk time, and took ten hours to re-charge [| 2].

Second Generation Cell Phones were brought in with the digital era. These phones, called 2G phones, were used on a different set of cell phone frequencies. The digital age was born, when the FCC allocated wave frequencies for PCS, or Personal Communication Systems. Along with the new system came innovations in batteries and computer chip techology bringing the weight of the cell phone down to a very manageable size [| 3].

Third Generation Cell Phones are the cell phones that we use today. The 3G phones allow users to do much more than just talk. New features such as text messaging, internet browsing, and e-mail access, became available when this new service came online [| 3].

Cell Phone Etiquette

In this section are some do's and do nots of the privileges of carrying a cellular phone. We all encounter cell phone use at home, at work and a variety of other situations. These rules will help everyone avoid embarrassing situations and some dangerous ones too.

Common Courtesy

Above all in dealing with cell phone conversations, common courtesy is the main objective. For example if you are out with your friends, family or significant other the first rule is to turn your ringer off or put your phone on vibrate. By allowing the phone to be on vibrate, you can check to see who is calling and your friends and family will not suffer through your personal ringer. The vibrate feature is also useful in public places where cell phones are frowned upon such as movie theaters, airplanes and church services. [| 6]

Cell Phone Safety On the Road

With numerous accidents every day in the United States, more states and cities are beginning to ban cell phone usage while driving. In experiments, talking on the cell phone while driving is very similar to driving drunk because the driver is paying more attention to the conversation rather than the road around them.

If your cell phone does ring while driving, the best option is to let the voicemail take the call and call back later. If you are travelling with any passengers, a passenger can answer the phone allowing you to stay focused on the road. However, if the call is really an emergency, pulling over to the side of the road makes everything safer. Even with bluetooth technology in many current model cars, the driver is still at risk of getting into an accident. [| 4]

Other Important Tips

Aside from common courtesy and road safety, there are other important tips that should be discussed. With the digital age upon us, many people today multi-task where they walk into a grocery store on their cell phone buying the items they need. Not only is this rude to other customers, especially if you are talking loud enough for other people to hear but also rude to the employees if you are waiting in line at the check-out.

Another part of multi-tasking makes people oblivious to their surroundings, allowing the closest people to hear every detail. By keeping your calls short, everyone has a more pleasant experience. Finally, as cell phones technology progresses through time, cell phones will hold more gadgets including music and cameras. Please make sure that if you are taking a picture that you ask permission. As for music, the best way is to keep is loud enough that you can hear it but low enough that others don’t have to listen. [| 5]

Cell Phones in the Media

There is no doubt that the use of cell phones, especially sophisticated camera phones, has had a significant impact with the news, the media, and high profile stories around the world. We all can remember images of Michael Richards’ racist taunts, the Virginia Tech shootings, or the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Millions of people have seen these videos that if not had been for the camera phone, would have never been seen. With millions of people having camera phone technology and with the easy access of putting videos on the internet, anyone can record basically anything, anywhere, at any time [| 8].

This has been particularly damaging in some criminal cases. For instance the incident of Malaysian police being caught forcing a woman detainee to do nude squats. Or at UCLA where campus police were sued over allegations of excessive force after a cell phone video showed them using a stun gun in the arrest. Or the case where UCLA campus police were sued over excessive force with taser gun. With infractions like these occurring all over the world, cameras in cellular phones may prove to be a beneficial asset in criminal investigations to come [| 7].

Cell phones cameras first played a minor role in the devastating tsunami that struck Indonesia killing thousands in December of 2004. This is due to the fact that most of the major footage was captured by actual video cameras on the mainland by tourists. However when the London transfer system came under attack, also known as 7/7, cell phone technology played a more vital role. While many occupants in the London underground lacked modern video recorders, during interviews the news and media were quick to ask the public for camera shots and live recordings of the event. These people, taking such devastating photographs of the dead and dying such as in the London underground incident, have came under fire from those who believe that such images have no right of being captured feeling that it is disrespectful to the dead and their families. The people who had taken images and recordings were quickly criticized as they could be seen trampling over one another to get the best shot available. Also, instead of recording the incident, they could have been assisting the injured or helping people escape the area [| 8].

While these are just some of the negative aspects of video cams on cellular phones, the pros generally outweigh the cons. Images and understanding of these important events give people an insight they would not have had otherwise. This is due mainly to the fact that film crews or other forms of visuals might not be available in certain unexpected situations. Cell phone cameras may also force people to watch what they say and what they do, because now anyone could be watching [| 8].

GPS-Cell Phone Tracking

Until recently, tracking people with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology required purchasing expensive hardware and software. GPS has now been integrated into your cell phone. In order to route calls to your phone the cell towers listen for a signal sent from the phone and negotiate which tower is best able to communicate with the phone. As the phone changes location, the towers monitor the signal and the phone is switched to a different tower as appropriate. By comparing the relative signal strength from multiple towers a general location of a phone can be determined. This technique was used in the disappearance of Kelsey Smith. Police used the GPS technology in her cell phone to track her whereabouts.

GPS-Enabled Cell Phones

The development of communications technology has definitely surpassed the sole ability to access others when they are mobile. Today, mobile communication devices are becoming much more technologically advanced and offer more than the ability to just carry on a conversation. Cell phone GPS tracking is one of those advances. This increased demand for enhanced 911 emergency calling capabilities, brought on by the events of September 11, has pushed forward GPS tracking technology in cell phones. At the end of 2005, all cell phone carriers were required to provide the ability to trace cell phone calls to a location within 100 meters or less [| 10].

In order to meet these requirements, cell phone carriers decided to integrate GPS technology into cell phone handsets, rather than overhaul the tower network. However the GPS in most cell phones are not like those in the GPS receiver that most people are familiar with. Many cell phones do not allow the user direct access to the GPS data and that data is transmitted only if a 911 emergency call is made- this is a major privacy concern.

The new technology of having GPS in your cell phone has been a helpful tool in such areas like locating a 911 emergency call, tracking down a murder victim, or tracking the whereabouts of an accused criminal. Cell phone GPS tracking technology could also be used to locate the whereabouts of your children (such as the new Disney phone or the Sprint Family Locator for only $9.99/month) and offer protection to elderly relatives if something should happen and they need urgent assistance [| 9]

This new and improved technology has truly proven its success and value to law enforcement individuals today.

Cell Phone Features

Much like techno-creep, newer technologies have been packed into each new cell phone that is produced from high color screens, personal ringtones, and internet. With newer inventions including space for your mp3s, GPS navigation systems, and high megapixel cameras, the entire face of the phone has changed.


The release of the Iphone has blended many electronics into one. With the two mega-pixel camera, it is able to take high-quality photos and afterwards are able to send the photos to a PC through a wire or through a docking station.

Connecting to Apple’s Itunes, the Iphone allows you to download mp3s through a local Wi-Fi hot spot. Holding 8 Giga-Bytes (GB), there is definitely plenty of room for a library of music, artwork, and television shows available for download for a small price.

Another interesting feature of the Iphone is the sensitive touch screen allowing the owner to look into many different menus including an internet browser, visible voice mail so you can look at who called and how long the message is, getting directions through available maps and much more.[| 13]

Wireless Wonders

Verizon, part of this technological age, offers streaming video clips from your favorite shows including CNN newscasts and The Daily Show. For a moderate monthly fee, subscribers can watch this content which is exclusive to Verizon only. [| 12]

Other recent advances allow people to use their cell phone over a Wi-Fi connection without using the cell phone tower. “Near Field Communication” allow you to use your credit or bank card that is stored on your cell phone. With NFC, you can buy a plane or bus ticket when the ticket vendors are too busy or check-in to a hotel room late at night. [| 12]

Bluetooth is the technology of transmitting your cell phone wireless signal to a car speaker or a headset. Bluetooth can send documents from your phone or PDA to a printer that is Bluetooth enabled, that can print PowerPoint presentations or important paper. It makes infrared technologies obsolete. [| 11] Lastly, PC Sync connects your cellular phone to a personal PC to download documents from the PC to your phone and vice-versa. The PC sync also allows you to transfer to-do lists and contact information. [| 11]

Smart Mobbing


What do you get when you intersect computers, cell phones, pagers, and people- a Smart Mob. According to Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, “A smart mob is really about a social practice of a group of people who are enabled by an emerging technology. We're seeing the PC, the Internet and the telephone emerging, and we're beginning to see people using mobile communications and the Internet to mobilize and coordinate their collective actions in the real world.” [| 15] Smart mobs are groups of people who will communicate with one another to co-ordinate a large meeting through the use of technology. Smart mobbing has been used for quite some time on computers, but has recently made the switch to cell phones as well.

Examples of Smart Mobbing

Text messages are the newest example of the smart mob technology. Rheingold explains in an interview that he first saw teenagers using this technology in Scandinavia and Japan to co-ordinate meetings. According to him, parents called this activity, “flocking.” [| 14]

According to CNN, the first smart mobs were teenage “thumb tribes” in Tokyo and Helsinki who used text messaging on cell phones to organizes impromptu raves or to stalk celebrities. A prime example of smart mobbing occurred in 2001 when a group of protesters organized via text messaging gathered at the EDSA Shrine to protest the corruption of President Joseph Estrada. These messages were thought to be partly responsible for the demonstration that ousted the former president. Examples of such text messages read: “Wear black to mourn the death of democracy,” “Expect there to be rumbles,” and “Go to EDSA.”

The people who make up smart mobs cooperate in ways that have never been possible because they carry devices that have both communication and computing capabilities. Their mobile devices connect them with other information devices in the environment as well as with other people's telephones. Smartmobs represent technological convergence at its finest.

This new way of communicating through our cell phones has made us question, is this the age digital revolution and smart mobbing?



1. Bellis, Mary. "Selling the Cell Phone: Part I History of Cell Phones." November 17, 2007.

2. "History of Cell Phones." Historical Text Archive. November 17, 2007.

3. "What is the History of Cell Phones?" The Tech-FAQ. November 17, 2007.


4. "Cell Phone Safety on the Road." Wirefly. 2007. November 17, 2007.

5. "Cell Phone Etiquette Guide." Lets November 17, 2007.

6. "Common Courtesy During Cell Phone Conversations." Wirefly. 2007. November 17, 2007.

Cell Phones in the Media

7. "Camera Phone - The power of media in the hands of millions." m-Govworld. November 17, 2007.

8. "Cell Phones Change the Media." Canada Free Press. July 22, 2005. November 17, 2007.

Cell Phone Tracking

9. "Sprint Family Locator." 2007. Sprint. 5 Dec 2007 <>.

10. "To Put Safety First or Privacy: Cell Phones and GPS Tracking." 2007 5 Dec 2007 <>.

Cell Phone Features

11. "Advanced Cell Phone Features." Wirefly. 2007. November 17, 2007.

12. "Mobile Computing: Newest Cell Phone Features" PCWorld. March 24, 2005. November 17, 2007.,120017/article.html

13. "Revolutionary Phone." November 17, 2007.

Smart Mobbing

14. Brockman, John. "Smart Mobs." 5 Dec. 2007 <>.

15. Rheingold, Howard. "Howard Rheingold: Public Speaking ." Howard Rheingold. 6 Dec 2007 <>.

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