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When Cellphones Became Cool

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slate-articleThe following is an excerpt from Will Oremus | September 20, 2016 | Slate.com |

It was 1997, and cellular phones were already boring.

A captivating, futuristic novelty when Motorola first demonstrated the technology in 1973, the mobile phone had quickly run up against a series of constraints. Size, cost, processor power, infrastructure: The obstacles to mass adoption were dispiriting, as they often are for new technologies on the downslope of their first hype cycles. Nevertheless, an industry gradually emerged, catering to business executives for whom the exorbitant cost (Motorola’s DynaTAC cost $4,000 in 1984) only reinforced its value as a status symbol. As the 1990s wore on, the devices slowly shrank, the cost of minutes eased, and cellular coverage widened.* Yet the perception of cellphones as gawky business gizmos remained, until a brash designer with a taste for simplicity came along with a phone that changed everything.

The designer wasn’t Jony Ive, and the phone wasn’t the iPhone. It was a man named Frank Nuovo, and the phone he created was one that few remember by name: the Nokia 3210. But if the device’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you might remember it by its iconic shape, its interchangeable covers, its classic ringtones, or even the mobile game it made famous.

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