The Journey from Text to Text

People began to advance their methods of communication when they began to record events. They used this as a way to take note of something that happened and also as a way to share what happened with everyone else. Writing is meant to be an inclusive activity, even if there is only meant to be one reader. As time moved along to our present time, their may be a slight break in what it means to be inclusive. Mobile communication devices have become a means for people to essentially record events as they are on the go, which is a very big step indeed. However, they technology can be exclusive in its nature. People who have disabilities, namely those who are blind or deaf cannot fully participate in the usage of many mobile communication devices. In this essay, I will explore a brief history of mobile technologies and relate it back to Gerard Goggin’s text in chapter 5 of Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life.

We all know about the caves and the inscriptions that were left behind in them centuries ago. This is recognized as the beginning of text for humans. Along the way, humans go fancier and found ways to record onto papyrus. Now we have a mobile form of communication. It was impossible to move a cave wall, but much easier to transport papyrus. That was accomplished in the third millennium B.C. Fast forward all the way to 1794 to when the first telegraph was sent. Now we have a totally new form of mobile communication, which was essentially the advancement of removing the paper from beneath the pen. Instead the message was transmitted over the air further than any caveman could throw. Because of the path that was made, in 1877 the invention of the telephone came into being. Shortly afterwards, the portable telephone was created and people were advanced with the ability to bring their devices along with them. This was a huge step in being able to carry your voice transmitter along with you, and the concept has held a sturdy hold up to the present day. In 1932 we finally decided to give this wonderful gift a name and deemed it telecommunications. Suddenly we have a great expansive field of mobile technologies that exist to simply relay messages for us. We have radios, car phones, walkie talkies, radio phones, etc. Developers began to create a cellular system in 1980, and three years later Motorola unveiled the first hand held mobile phone. (Nice!)

Pagers and mobile phones would eventually merge together. The combination of dials and screens would develop as we became more savvy in the budding technologies. Text messaging became a feature on cell phones in the early 1990s. Teenagers were the first to catch onto the new form, but it turned into being so much more than just a fad. I stated earlier that communication was meant to be inclusive, however it is not so in every aspect. Just like anything, communication was never perfect. While some were making phone calls over unimaginable distances, those with hearing disabilities were not able to partake in the activity. Although initially, those with visual disabilities could use the telephone by taking advantage of touch and the physical terrain of the technology, they were left out in later when advances were made with touch screen technology. Even today as we are surrounded by such sleek and innovative technologies, there are still accessibility loopholes left behind for those with disabilities. I turn to the text by Gerard Goggin to explore the topic of mobile technologies and accessibility.

Goggin described that although text messaging was not initially meant to be an accessory to those with hearing problems, it proved to be a great feature on mobile devices for those who were affected by the disability. I thought back to my own experiences of watching one of my friend’s mother in her home. Her mother was deaf and had text words (captions) on many of her technology devices including her home phone and television. I was intrigued by the words that would display on their home phone’s screen because I thought it was amazing to see her mother have a means of understanding exactly what the person on the other end was saying. From this experience I knew that having this sort of feature on a mobile cellular device for everyday consumers would be an incredible thing. About two years later, my sister and I got our first Nokia cell phones. Text messaging would prove to be a way for us to silently communicate with one another while we were apart. The Nokia phone was a great tool for those who had vision problems as well because of the raised numbers. I know because my grandmother could use one without her coke bottle glasses. There were not too many buttons or functions and the phone was very basic in its form. Like Goggin says however, technology began to shift to touchscreen phones with more elaborate features. In order to fit it all on one device, the keys had to shrink which made it harder for those with visual disabilities to use them. Goggin also noted that there is little research on the links between disability and cell phone usage. This is a hard fact to wrap the mind around given how far we have come in advancing the mobile device. Technology should be an extension of man. It should be able to be used as a guidance, not simply a comfort tool for the masses. We should take into consideration those who may truly benefit from certain advancements in remarkable ways.

To look back and compare the writings on the walls to the text typed across our screens amazing. However we should reevaluate our needs and what the purpose for these technologies were in the first place. We needed to relay messages, not simply update Facebook statuses. The hump we have to get over now is to retract a bit and redevelop how to include everyone into the conversation.

Works cited:

  1. Goggin, Gerard. (2006). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile technology in everyday life. London: Routledge. Chapter 5, p. 89-103.
  2. What would they cost today? 10 classic pieces of tech history at today’s prices. (2011, December 9). pingdom. Retrieved February 23, 2014, from http://royal.pingdom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/DynaTAC8000X.jpg
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