Remembering the “good” old days of Mobile Tech

It hasn’t been all that long ago (maybe 15 years?) that when you were not at home or in the office, you were out of contact with the world . At least as far as practical communications go. You turn on the answering machine (if you had one), leave the house to go to work and you had your whole commute to yourself. You could listen to music on the car radio or if you were fancy about it, you had Cassettes, 8 tracks and, dare I say it? Cd’s. That was about all there was available back then.

In the early 80’s I got into CB radio (I was a little late for the hey day of CB radio in the 70’s). At the time I had a 20 mile commute and we had a CB base station at home and a mobile rig in each of the 2 cars. My then wife could communicate with me on my commute to or from work for about the first 3 miles or so on most days. (when the conditions were good) When I got about 3 miles from work I could chat with a few friends that worked at the same place (An Air Force Base in Idaho) as they were coming into work. Or once in a while, someone would be within range the whole trip, going the same way I was. On rare occasions, I would hear someone clearly enough from far away that we could exchange 2 or 3 transmissions but that was about it.

Traveling the interstates on long trips, the CB was useful for talking to truck drivers and other travelers along the way, but was not a reliable source of information and could get a little *blue* as in not family safe.

Later in the 80’s I got my Ham Radio License and discovered the joys of 2 meter FM VHF. The VHF frequencies were great in that you could talk as far as, if not more then, you could with a CB radio and the transmissions were very clear and almost never did you have a day where the conditions were bad. You could also access mountain top repeaters that could cover a large part of several states. There were not as many people on the VHF bands as there were on CB and in general, the people were just a little more skilled in operating the radio. AND, not to put down CBers, they were mostly nicer to talk to. There wasn’t as much “lingo” on the ham bands (hams have their own lingo but that is mostly disappearing on the ham bands now days). The people I communicated with on the ham radio were mostly acquaintances that I met on the air and would sometimes see in person, but were not family, close friends or co-workers. Up until then, most of the communications I had in the car were not practical. Just recreational, except for the few times I used the radio to report an accident or the time I broke down and had someone call my wife to come get me.

I later got a cell phone. It was one of those 3 watt bag phones that had the little rubber antenna on it so you could go “portable”. I also had the mag mount antenna with the little spring in the middle ( you remember those don’t you?). I think I had a 50 minute per month plan and it was 50¢ per minute after that. Needless to say, I did not use that a lot! I had a succession of “candy bar” phones after that, each with a better rate plan and more minutes.

Flash forward to 2010. I have this little box on my belt all the time that can connect me to the web, TV, Radio, Podcasts and anyone in the world I want to talk to. I have unlimited data and talk time. I even have a GPS device that will give me directions by me just talking to it and it talks back! No more stopping for directions or looking at a paper map to figure out where to go. The GPS just tells me where to go.

The funny thing is, I miss the days where my commute was my alone time. I could drive, think and drink my coffee without being interrupted. Maybe we should start the “Great Phone Out” Kind of like the “Great American Smoke Out” that people do on November 18th. It would be the one day a year that we turn off our mobile devices and try to remember (or experience) our mobile lives without interruption. Then again, maybe not.

What kind of tech did you have while mobile “back in the day” ?