30 years of mobile in business

A hundred years ago the industrial revolution transformed the British society and economy, improving transportation, railway and infrastructure, which ultimately allowed more of its citizens to work and live in more urban settings. From farms to offices, the British workplace drastically evolved and we are now seeing a change yet again with the next generation of mobile telecommunications.

At midnight on January 1 1985, Michael Harrison sneaked out of the family New Year’s Eve party to surprise his father Sir Ernest Harrison, the first Chairman of Vodafone, calling him from London’s Parliament Square. Michael called his father on a Transportable mobile to wish him a Happy New Year, making this call, the UK’s first official mobile phone call. Since then, the growth of mobile has been exponential.

Roger Southam, one of Vodafone’s first business customers, is a property asset manager and set up his company Chainbow in the late 80’s. Roger credits mobile as one of the key innovations that transformed his work processes for the better. He said “Before mobile, time away from the office on site visits and viewing properties meant you were completely out of touch. Having a mobile meant being able to make a call anytime, anywhere.”

The offices of the 80’s were formal and rigid, reflective of the times of grey business suits, mobile phones that weighed 11bs and strict processes. The majority of businesses in the UK in 1985 had typewriters, fax machines, desk phones and letters to communicate with colleagues, customers and business associates. To put it into context, the cost of starting a business today is more than 10 times less than a cost of a mobile phone in 1985 (£312 versus equivalent of over £4,000). Today, we see a boom in innovative enterprises and creative industries riding the current wave of development of mobile devices, technological and marketing tools, augmented reality and the consumerisation of technology.

At The Future of British Business Growth event in 2014, Lord Young of Graffham, enterprise advisor to the Prime Minister said, “ What the internet has done is lowered the barrier to start ups to an incredible extent. Today you can start (a business) with a smartphone and nothing else. All you need is the idea and the drive and those two things have transformed where we are.”

Mobile and technology are now essential business tools and are undeniably woven into every aspect of our lives. With 60 per cent of employees needing to work with colleagues in other countries, it has allowed employees to work flexibly, breaking down geographic barriers and opening up growth opportunities that are limitless.  Along with affordable and scalable technologies like cloud, mobile is driving growth in corporate enterprise as well as helping SMEs compete with their larger counterparts, fostering a healthy and thriving economy.

From Michael Harrison’s first phone call 30 years ago, to the first text message 22 years ago and the development of mobile gaming and QR codes in the early 90’s, the mobile phone has come a long way and in the next 30 years the possibilities will be endless.

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Watch kids review a 1980’s mobile phone: