Mobile History and AR

Asil Martin

Mobile technologies have been around for a long time, and history shows how we value this particular technology, being that it provides us with the ability to communicate with others. We enjoy the pleasures of mobile technology so much that there are users out there who want to incorporate the device more with who they are. Practices of wearing technology and blending it with the physical environment leads us to trying to normalize something known as augmented reality. Augmented reality, blends both the virtual world with the real world, in real-time. Looking at this kind of technology and the history of how mobile tech has evolved over the years, we find that the mobile tech wasn’t always so digital.

History tells us mobile technology dates back as far as Ancient Egypt, with the papyrus. Farman goes on to say that, “papyrus was invented as an alternative to stone tablet inscription and written media becomes portable,” (Farman, pg. 11). Egyptians found that papyrus paper was a lot easier to carry and pass messages from one to another. Although papyrus was indeed the start of mobile media, oppose to stone writing, it was the invention of the printing press that was a huge step for mobile technologies. Invented in 1440, the printing allowed for the mass printing (and distribution) of written media (Farman pg. 12). From printing, came the development of a device that communicated with sound.

Created in the 1790s, the first working telegraph, brought about the telegram in 1794 (Goggin 19-21). People begin to familiarize themselves by communicating with people through a device with more convenience. This device of course, made communication far more personal than any written text at the time. It allowed for message to be transmitted instantly, and at distances once seen to be almost too far. To further expand on the reach of transmission, in the early 1800s, Europeans developed common standard—Global System for Mobile (GSM) Communication that could be used throughout the whole continent (Ling and Donner, pg. 38). With this, we begin to see that the coverage of mobile technology growing larger, thus leading to bigger technological advances.

During 1877, it was Alexander Graham Bell, who demonstrated the telephone, invented in 1876, to a group of military officials (Goggin pg. 20). The telephone didn’t exactly present an augmented reality, but it did expose you to direct connectivity. Connectivity that was known only through the telephone devices. Telephones brought the creation of Standardize time zones in 1884 (Farman, pg. 13.). So now specific regions had their time adjusted accordingly based off their location in the country to take in consideration of other location’s time. This is the first adjustment towards setting real-time acknowledgement. By the end of the nineteenth century, the telegraph became a global communications network (Goggin pg. 21), leading to many more users. Sometime in the early 1900’s, there was 1 telephone subscriber per 10,000 people in the USA (Ling and Donner, pg. 34).

brick phone

Mobile technology was becoming far more popular than any other subject. Development of taking the communication anywhere was booming. In 1909, the US Army Signal corps experimented with radio equipment mounted on horse carriages (Goggin pg. 21). Soon after we see car phones. It was in 1910, Swedish electrical engineer by the name of Lars Magnus Ericusson, makes the first mobile phone, which was built into his wife’s car (Farman, pg. 15). Telephones and radio were expanding in many directions. Devices begin to take on more private and personal use.

What we carry in our pockets today, evolved so much as time moved on. AT&T and Southwestern Bell Offered the first commercial mobile radio telephone allowing calls from fixed phones to mobile users (in St. Lewis) (Goggin, pg. 25) in 1946. After that came a number of other important technologies the following year. Though it was in 1947 that a phone would send and receive signals via the transmitter tower that provided dedicated service to the cell in which it was located, and as users moved locations the responsibility for maintaining the reception of the phone would be passed from one cell base to another (Goggin pg. 26). This made connectivity easier than ever before. Thus birthing the coined term of the cell phone.

Cell phones today are the most popular used technology platforms in the world. Its growth in popularity came in the late 1940’s. In 1948 the development of the transistor and subsequent addition of the integrated chip was the central growth of the mobile phone system (Ling and Donner, pg. 41). This led to further development as consumers couldn’t wait to get their hands on mobile phones, which were developed and patent by Motorola in 1973 (Goggin, pg. 29). Then came the need for mobile control stations. Japan had the world’s first cellular radio service with the Mobile Control Station system.

With the advancement of technology, we find that communicating in a digital space wouldn’t be possible if not for certain developments. In the 1990’s, the cell phone extended its range of features and the repertoire of voice telephony that it could support. New media features added including multimedia (communication and cultural exchange through text, image, sound, and touch, as well as voice). Widespread adoption of text messaging happens during the same time as email becomes popular (Goggin pg, 31). This brings us to the data usage. Technology begins to display ideals of augmented reality soon after with wearable devices.

Connected to the internet, and the existence of mobile data brings us to the development of mixing our world with the digital. We find that people favor the convenience of what exist in the digital would. The use of these mobile technologies not only influences how people consume space, but creation of augmentation has the potential to reproduce space with code Liao and Humphrey, pg. 5). Mixing our reality with the digital world we create through coding. Developments to create this a reality has be shown that augmented reality is something certain to become part of how we interact with out devices in the future.


  • Farman, Jason. (2012). “Historicizing Mobile Media: Locating Transformations of Embodied Space,” in N. Arceneaux & A. Kavoori (Eds), The Mobile Media Reader. New York: Peter Lang. P. 9-22.
  • Ling, Rich and Donner, Jonathan. (2009). Mobile Communication. Malden, MA: Polity Press. Chapter 2, p. 30-48.
  • Goggin, Gerard. (2006). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile technology in everyday life. London: Routledge. Chapter 2, 19-40.
  • , Brick Phone Photo.
  • Microsoft Revealed the HoloLens augmented-reality headset.



One thought on “Mobile History and AR

  1. I really enjoyed reading this digital essay. I think that you put together a really interesting time line of the history of mobile media with a lot of information – while still making it enjoyable to read. You made a point in your first paragraph where you said that we are tying to normalize something known as augmented reality, and it’s so true. It’s true with all technology. When something new is created there is always skepticism, whether it be about health and safety concerns, or just the overall feeling that we just don’t need it. But over time these inventions and creations just become normal. Like these tiny mobile devices we carry around in our pocket that contain as much power as laptop, tv, video game console, telephone, and more – all in one.

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