Business gadgets of the 80s-90s

Pagers, PDA's, car phones...
July 17, 2012
In the 80s and early 90s most business corporations had a fax and answering machine (and most of the time those are still around - but being used a lot less). But internet, e-mail, voice-mail, social networks and mobile phones weren't around yet. So what other gadgets did business men and women use in those period? How did they stay in contact with their consumers on the road? Here's an overview of some the gadgets business people used back then - most of those gadgets were considered pretty 'high-end' in that period...

One of the indispensable business gadgets was the pager (also called beeper). You could put this little device on your belt and anyone who knew your number could "beep" you. That meant someone could send a phone number to your beeper and the device alarmed you a message was received by *beeping*. It wasn't much of a message: just the phone number you were supposed to call back. So, the next thing was to find a quarter and a phone cell... Unless you were one of those really fancy business guys with a car phone... The rise of the mobile phones in the late 90s definitely put and end to the beeper.

I love action movies of the 80s were the hero has a car phone. Especially when they take it out and have to carry it around with the large battery pack that belongs to it. That's what I remember of car phones: their giant size. You had to have quite some room between the two front seats in a car to fit them in. Not all car phones can be used in all countries anymore due to cellular network changes.

Car phone

* PDA *
In the early 90s, many business persons really thought they needed a PDA, a Personal Digital Assistent. The name was thought of by former Apple CEO John Scully, though Apple wasn't actually the first company to release a PDA. Main functions of a PDA were the calendar and the ability to take notes on it (a stylus was often included). Some later PDA's gave access to the internet. The honor of the first PDA goes to the Psion Organiser (1984) - that looked like a giant calculator. However, most people will remember PDA's that looked like the Palm Pilot (1997) and Apple Newton (1993), square devices with a big monochrome screen and stylus. Most people kept using a paper agenda next to their PDA's. The screens of the devices were hard to read, they had a lot of flickering problems and the touch input - even with the stylus - was just nasty (as you can witness in the Apple Newton commercial below). Most of them were broken within a short period of time too.

PDA's: Psion Organiser (1984), Palm Pilot (1997), Apple Newton (1993)
Apple Newton commercial: that stylus input seems pretty inaccurate...

The first mobile phone was released in 1983, but I don't know anybody that actually had it. Only if you were extremely rich (or had a really big business) you could afford one: it costs around $ 4000! The phone weighed "only 30 ounces", as is proclaimed in the commercial below... (And check the commercial at 0:14 - 0:16, that guy looks a lot like the A-Team's Hannibal!).

Motorola DynaTAC commercial: "only weighs 30 ounces!"

The Motorola DynaTAC is probably best known for its appearence in Oliver Stone's movie Wall Street (1987), in which the 'stinking rich bad guy' and stoke broker Gordo Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) is using it while walking on the beach. So only guys like that could afford that phone... A nice touch is that in the movie Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (2010), Gekko is given his Motorola DynaTAC back when he gets out of prison (see trailer below)...

Gordon Gekko calling with Motorola DynaTac in movie Wall Street (1987)

Gordon Gekko gets his DynaTAC when released out of prison in Wall Street 2 (2010)
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