1. jorel

    jorel Member

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    A time without mobile internet...

    Discussion in 'Research' started by jorel, Feb 7, 2019.

    The story I'm working on is set in modern time USA, but I would like to evade the constant use of smartphones and the internet.

    I don't live in the US and was wondering when everybody (especially teenagers) started to have smartphones.

    And when did cell phones transition from being just that to being the center of everyday life?

    Thanks in advance
    jorel
     
  2. Fallow

    Fallow Banned

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    I think you have to only go back 8 years or so. Smart phones didn't become common until there was a competitor to the iPhone, and Android only dates back to 2008. So I think as late as 2012 you would still find plenty of people with regular phones.
     
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think the iPhone was my first real smartphone, and I got it around the time that the iPhone was released--2007.

    Before that I had a Palm Pilot for portable "smart" stuff, but I synced it from my computer. I had a flip-top phone that technically had Internet capability, but it was really slow and data was expensive. I remember accidentally launching the web browser and frantically making it close again before it could load something and bill me for the loading.

    Before that, I think that texting was fairly common on earlier, more primitive phones--if you sprang for a special plan to keep texts from being terribly expensive.

    But I don't know when every teenager in the world got a smartphone. I suspect it was at least five years after the iPhone was released, but that's pure guessing.
     
  4. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I think that you and I may be of a very similar age. This is pretty much 100% my experience.
     
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  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I write contemporary fiction and have never included a reference to smart phones or the Internet. I've had characters make calls from a car or other places, but that's all I've included. I still believe my story is modern and current without my characters using smartphone features and the Internet. I don't feel like I need them in every story. I'm also not trying to pretend they don't exist.

    My first (unpublished) novel didn't even have cell phones and it felt quite dated from the time it was finished. So, I guess it's important to think about what having this technology in your story or leaving it out does for the story overall.

    Just about everyone over the age of 11 has a smartphone it seems. If you are writing YA, it could be harder to ignore these things. Whatever you're writing, if the story is good enough where readers aren't going to think "Why didn't this character just google it?," then you're probably okay. But if leaving out smartphones and the Internet is going to leave readers with unanswered questions regarding such things, you'll probably want to include some references since these are things most Americans have come to rely on.
     
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  6. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Thy rod and thy Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Overall, I didn't much like the Percy Jackson movie, but I'm not the target demographic. However, when he used the silvered case on his iPhone to avoid getting turned to stone by Medusa? Genius...
     
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  7. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I think the major switch started to happen right around the release of the second iPhone and androids debut into the market. Before that kids had flip phones or Nokia bricks for emergencies only. You couldn’t really dick around on them because you had a limited number of minutes and had to refill it.
     
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  8. camphore

    camphore Member

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    I got my first cell phone in 1997 when my ex-wife was pregnant with our son. I went into Verizon for a pager, because I had heard the reception on the cell phones wasn't very good. The salesperson talked me into the new Motorola Star-Tac flip phone, which was free with a 2-year plan. I previously knew nothing about these. I worked for a Japanese company at the time, and the guys from Tochigi treated me like some kind of rock star when they heard I had one.

    The first "smartphone" I ever saw was in 2006 when somebody I used to know got a pink Motorola Razr. Started seeing them everywhere after that. If memory serves, Play Store was a long time off and all the apps were hard-wired in the ROM. The stupidest thing at the time was waking up to see her crawling on the floor looking for a lost earring, using the LCD display as a flashlight.

    Trust me on this; I am old. Hope that helps.
     
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  9. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    First mobile i had was around 2006, it was a Nokia and had downloadable apps and could browse the web, and could play videos and music, but browsing was ridiculously expensive (I think it was 10 cents a page) and they didn't have WiFi, so everything was usually put on an SD card beforehand. SD cards were tiny and expensive back then, too. A 1 Gig card was something like 90 bucks, so watching full movies was fairly uncommon. Touch screens were also really uncommon and mostly crap, so games had to involve buttons of some sort. Snake and Tetris were the ones I used.
     
  10. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Senior Member

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    my first phone was a nokia also, but i think i was like in the 3rd grade some roughly 2003? i only had 5 contacts on it: home, mom, dad, grandma, and my brother and I only took it with me to school. the most fun thing about it was Tetris.
    I dont remember doing anything else on it. in middle school i got the Razr flip phone and again, i dont remember doing much on it. I had more phone numbers in my contacts, but i dont remember texting as much back then as I did in high school. 2008-9 is when i got this slide phone. The outside looked like a regular phone, then you slide it upward and it had another keypad for texting. I called it The Turtle because it looked like a shell phone straight out of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was ALWAYS on that phone texting. texting was life! Then I broke up with my bf and didnt have a reason to be on my phone anymore.
    I've never had an iPhone. the smart phone I have now is a cheap one I got fairly recently. I have 2 apps on it. I dont use the internet on it. I basically text, call, and SOMETIMES check my bank account through my banking app. Oh, and I take pictures of my pets lol
     
  11. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Thy rod and thy Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's still odd for me to think of life before the mobile internet. When I was a freshman in high school, my parents shelled out for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Twenty-three, IIRC, hardbound paper books so that we'd have one in the home when we needed to look something up.

    My first cellular phone was one I got by donating $25 to the McDonald's charity in 1996 or so. Red LED number readout screen, nothing else, no internet, didn't pay extra for voice mail, never used it, ditched it after the contract ran out a year later. Second phone was when I got to Japan in 2001, don't remember who or what made it as almost all phones at that time were branded by their carrier, so it was a J-Phone. It had a color LCD screen, that was the selling point, and could access text-only internet pages, like my email service, with mixed results. I didn't go with a smartphone* until about five years ago, Sony Xperia that served me pretty well until it didn't, now I'm on a Galaxy something or other.

    *misnomer, the first "smartphone" was the first one that could send and receive texts as well as do voice calling
     
  12. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I bought my first mobile phone (a Nokia StupidPhone) in the spring of 2004, prior to my visit back home to the USA. I figured it would be good to have, so people could keep in contact with me during the nearly 4 months I was over there. I'd be moving around a lot, etc. Great idea.

    However, although O2 assured me I could use it in the USA with the tariff I bought, I found it only worked in Boston and in lower Michigan. As soon as I moved north from Lansing—which is where I spent 2/3 of my time, that was it. So it was basically useless for the purpose I bought it for.

    When I returned home and the contract came up for renewal, I decided to cancel it. However, O2 wouldn't allow me to cancel it! I kept getting billed. So, rather than drag myself though all sorts of hassle, courts, etc, I simply switched to an O2 pay-as-you-go account! O2 allowed me to change my account, just not cancel it.* So I still have pay as you go, although I've 'upgraded' to a Samsung clamshell phone. I put about ...wait for it ...£40 per year into the thing, and that does me. I hardly ever use it, and don't keep it switched on.

    I don't have a Smartphone, and probably never will, unless I'm forced to. I'm retired, spend most of my time at home (where we have a landline phone that doesn't need charged) and I hate being pestered when I'm out. If I was out and about a lot, or doing lots of traveling, I probably would invest in an iPhone, though. But there's no point with the kind of life I lead.

    I've had a home computer since our first Mac in 1994, and I would not want to be without it. But I don't need one to carry around with me all day, every day. I have an old iPad for emergency email access, etc, and we do also have a MacBook Air, bought at the end of 2015, that is a nifty machine that almost never gets used—but hey.

    ........
    * tip for anybody else who can't cancel an account!
     
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  13. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    My colleague last summer didn't have a phone. And my pal - at my job before - he was the same. And my son only has a phone when I buy him one from the supermarket as a holiday treat until he loses the phone with his face in an ashtray, his passport generally in a bush, and his leather jacket in the sea along with my wallet. All examples of real 21st century men with pocket diaries except for my son being more facebook ranger in his style, and a guitarist unfortunately.
     
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  14. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    Horror, as well. The old "I have no phone signal!" trick is becoming a laughable cliché and horror authors (and writers) are having to get more inventive with reasons their characters can't just call for help.
     
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  15. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Is that because the trope has been used too often and has become 'old' from a literary point of view, or is it because people can usually get a signal now, no matter where they are? Non-phone-using fogey here....
     
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  16. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    A bit of both. There are still rural places that have patchy signals or no signals, but it does strike the reader as very convenient. Because it's so convenient it has been used a lot - like the old cliché of the victims breaking down on an isolated country road in the middle of the night. Any horror fan is going to eye roll when either of these things happen.
     
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  17. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    Likewise, there ares a lot of the books about social media and Twitter in my hiposphere. I don't find those titles so palatable because I am 93 and I don't understand their arch references. One rival author - he's an author - I'm not - is a particular villain. His novella should arrive in the post this week for me to judge how much I hate him.

    Books should be about ships and making love in final chapters on the Bentley's bonnet.
     
  18. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    My first mobile phone was a Nokia 3510i, which had the graphical power of a Gameboy colour in a slightly bigger version of the Nokia 3310. That was back in 2004, it made calls, sent texts, and I downloaded Space Invaders onto it via a specially designed website that catered for its capabilities.

    My first smart phone was not until 2011 or so due to a strict budget.
     
  19. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The cellular phone has become a real game changer for fiction writers. One TV series of the turn of the millennium (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) consciously chose to incorporate cell phones into the story lines, along with having to justify why they couldn't always save the day. They simply couldn't ignore it any longer. It wasn't long before that that a protagonist would have to hunt down a functioning phone booth or a home or business willing to let them make a call to try get the word out. GPS is even newer, even with a cell phone you might to be able to tell someone how to find you.

    But being unable to get an adequate signal is still a realistic problem. Likewise, a discharged battery. Or a lost or stolen phone, or cell tower outage in bad weather. One of my favorite vacation spots is along the Maine coast, but inside the park, it's still not always easy to get a decent signal.

    I've never gotten to the point that I rely on having a cell phone handy, having lived many, many years before they even existed. It changes your perspective immensely.
     
  20. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    Ideally the guy with his gadgets - 'this my Nokia I-360 satellite compatible search-station' - gets an ice-pick through eyes, and his plastic toys fall through our Earth's [snowy] crust toward chapter two - for decent folk without the condition boreface in any contemporary book, any genre, worth its salt.
     
  21. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Thy rod and thy Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I read somewhere that they've had a significant impact on espionage/police work as well, but not one you'd think of right off. Used to be that when tailing or surveilling, you'd have to have an excuse for long periods of inactivity. Suddenly taking an interest in a shop window or whatever, if your target paused. Now they can just pull out a phone and start (apparently) texting or browsing as a sort of camouflage. There's much more to the game than that, of course, but every little bit helps.
     
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  22. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I feel so old now, thank you. You make it sound like a time before mobile data was eons ago!

    I think email became a thing in the late 90s or so. Wifi became a thing roughly when I was a teenager, like 2003, 2004 sorta time. Those Nokia bricks were still a thing at that time I think (I had one). This was roughly the time when laptops also became a thing. I think smartphones came along at some point after I graduated after 2009? Mobile data probably at a similar time or a bit later.

    But then my family never moved in time with technology - they were always a few years behind, so my estimates could be wrong. I only got my first smartphone back in... 2014? By then definitely everyone had a smartphone - I just already had a phone and smartphones were expensive.

    I think you'd be fine in the early 2000s if you wanna evade smartphones. It's so recent though that if you were a wee babe at the time, you may wanna go the dystopian/sci-fi route rather than contemporary route, because most adults in the world will remember clearly what it's like to be without a smartphone - without a mobile, period. I remember cassette tapes and those phones where you spin the dial and wait for it to go back to the start before punching in the next number, and I'm no dinosaur. I'm only 31. If you're not sure what the world was like before the advent of mobile phones and/or smartphones, I just wouldn't go that route because you run a very high risk of sounding ridiculous.

    On the other hand, plenty of us around to ask questions to get a realistic feel for things :)
     
  23. disasterspark

    disasterspark Active Member

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    I am 17 so I might be the best answer to your question.

    I got my first smart phone when I was 12-13. It was an iPhone and every phone since then has been an iPhone. Before that I just had a regular candybar phone with a slide keyboard for texting, which I used from about 11-12.

    From 12-16 I sorta used it as like a mobile computer. I played games, watched videos, and listened to a lot of music. Nowadays I mainly use it to simply call and text. Occasionally listening to music or to keep something typed down so I remember it.

    It may seem like that way from time to time. But really when you think about it, smartphones are simply phones... but smarter. I know I felt the same at one point because I currently am in high school. There isn't much to do on a day to day basis. And when 20 or so bored as fuck kids are stuck in a room with not much to do, it sometimes helps to have a little mobile device in your pocket where you can listen to music, watch videos, play games, or chat with someone. I used to look at them and think they were stupid for being so vulnerable and ignorant to how their smartphones are rotting their brains and flip phones were so much better because... reasons.

    But now I'd look and honestly feel empathetic cause I grew to understand exactly why they seem to use smartphones and social media so much. For some of them, they're stuck in that little building and the "friends" they have simply aren't there in person. I never used many of the modern teenager social media apps, the closest to that would probably be reddit from time to time. I always felt a little turned off about how everything you say can be traced back to you. Of course if you dig deep enough, that would be the case for everything online. But with those accounts it tends to be an unwritten rule that you have to have your real name and face on your account. Maybe that's just my school but I'm not sure. That wasn't the case for Reddit, and with Reddit there are subreddits where you can talk about anything.

    Another important lesson I learned, is that it didn't really matter much to me that everyone had social media and I didn't (at least not Snap, IN, or FB anyway). Accepting it as just a part of life has been liberating honestly, because then I can focus my energy on what I wanted to do, instead of worrying about what everyone else was doing. Because what I was doing mattered more to me.

    But if I had the choice, I'd probably use a flip phone. Mainly out of personal preference and the stuff it does just"matches" with me more, if you know what I mean.

    If I may ask, why don't you want smartphones to be used in your story? Is this a novel or comic book? Other than that I have a few ideas on how you can go about this:

    - Set it in an alternate modern USA where the people who made the smartphones and internet the way it is now, died, or in some way couldn't do that. So that if they weren't around to make those advancements, well humanity would be stuck.

    - Create a realistic apocalyptic scenario that sets humanity 10 or 20 years back in terms of technology. So like it's 2019 now but it would be 2009 or 1999 in terms of technology.

    - Maybe add a cheap phone that is smaller, mainly used for call/text, but is much cheaper. Then by some economic recession or just people don't wanna spend so much money they go buy that, almost effectively rendering smartphones obsolete. For this one, I heard Japan was going back to dumb phones because they couldn't afford smartphones, so maybe have that happen to the USA.

    Honestly, I would love to read a story set around 2005 - 2010. That time is kind of nostalgic even if I was way too young to experience or remember any of it.
     
  24. jorel

    jorel Member

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    Thank you so much for all your replies!

    It is indeed a YA novel, which is why I need to find a good solution for this.

    The main reason I am hesitant to include smartphones or other new technology is my own inexperience with it; I have never owned anything beyond a laptop and a basic cell phone.
    Also the fact that I feel like it could take away some of the mystery.

    I think putting a dystopian spin on the story would distract from the story I am trying to tell, though I am intrigued by the idea of making some changes to our technological history. Then again, what would 2019 be if the world wasn't as connected as technology allows us to be?
    So maybe not...

    But you have all helped me understand my possibilities better and the picture is definitely getting clearer.
    Thanks again
    jorel
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
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