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My Cellular History (Part 1)

I have the Samsung Galaxy S4 Life Companion. I got it as soon as it was available in the UK, fresh off the production line. I wish I hadn’t bothered.

Sometimes, I miss my old phones; I mean the really old ones. The ‘bricks’ that paved the way for these ultra-slim, delicate handsets we covet today.

Those old phones of yesteryear represent simpler times: when texting was new and deciding on a good song for your voicemail was your highest priority. It was an age of twelve-month contracts and a guaranteed upgrade every year. *cries in 24-month contract*

It all started in my teens

The ‘perils’ of teenage life in South London and my mum’s anxiety regarding the disappearance of local payphones, persuaded her that I needed a mobile phone, so that she could keep in contact with me.

A black Motorola pager
Remember pagers?

Walking to and from school on my own and being allowed to stay out until 7.30 pm warranted the expulsion of my pager and my very first mobile phone circa 1997. And yes. I had a pager. I probably used it twice. *shrugs looks at mother, shrugs again*

It started with the 5110

My first mobile was the Nokia 5110 (aka The Face Off). The 5110 had ‘swag’ back in the 90s: stubby little aerial, backlit rubber buttons and the game Snake. It was truly the pimp daddy of mobile phones.

Nokia 5110
A pimped out Nokia 5110 (aka The Face Off)


No, not the guy from Metal Gear Solid. I’m talking about Snake the game.

Before Angry Birds and Candy Crush, Snake was top banana in mobile gaming. It was the first app. The alpha game that bred swathes of zombie-like people walking into lampposts, missing stops on public transport and losing hours at a time. If you weren’t playing Snake, you weren’t living.

This simple game contributed to an anti-social descent from which we would never recover. And we loved every damn minute!

Snake game on Nokia phone
Hours of my life lost to this game

Super saiyan battery life

I have had my Samsung S4 since summer 2013 and the battery is already dying.

However, the Nokia 5110’s battery was amazing. You only needed to charge it once every 2-3 days, and you never had to worry about your phone dying in the middle of a level of Snake (because priorities).

It’s a brick but make it ‘fashun’

I adored my 5110 ‘brick’. It came with a cobalt blue fascia and a £10 top-up, ‘scratch-card’ voucher. Also, you could pimp your phone because the cover was removable. So fascia swapping was our generation’s version of friendship bracelets. We used to head to Brixton market to get blinged out covers and dangling ornaments to wrap around the aerial.

The rise of texting and top-ups

Those were the days: when calls cost 40p per minute and trying to explain to your parents why you needed another £5 voucher that week became an art form of half-truths and over-exaggerated tech jargon.

This was also the time before Short Messaging Services (SMS) came as standard on pre-paid mobiles. When Mercury One2One rolled out SMS text messaging later that year, we all went crazy for cocoa puffs!

The next gen Nokia: 3210

Next up for me was the Nokia 3210 – the iPhone of its time.

Cast your mind back to 1999: the world was getting ready for the dawn of a new millennium. The Y2K Bug was going to plunge all technology into the dark ages and the Millennium Dome would be the architectural darling of the world.

*rolls eyes in hindsight*

Y2K never happened and the Millennium Dome became the laughing stock of British culture. But, the Nokia 3210 did happen and it rocked!

Nokia 3210 handset
Next gen: – the Nokia 3210

It was larger, slimmer, but sexier. Wider at the top than the bottom, silver casing and a bigger screen. It had everything you needed: predictive text capabilities, picture messaging, Snake (of course) and now you could replace the back and front fasciae! Double deuces! Two surfaces to pimp out instead of one! *mini-explosion inside my tiny mind *

The Nokia’s fatal flaw

Alas, my 3210 met a slow and painful end, when one night, on a school theatre trip, my school mate’s Sprite capsized over my bag and my beloved 3210 drowned in a wash of carbonated, lemon flavoured bubbles. *sob*

She was horrified. And rightly so.

Anyone who had Nokias in the nineties knew its one, true weakness – liquid.

Nokias were almost indestructible. Run it over; drop it down flights of stairs; leave it on the radiator or let a toddler get their adorable, destructive and chubby hands on a nineties Nokia, and it’s coming out laughing; brushing off each obstacle like Chuck Norris.

But all Nokias were powerless against liquids. It didn’t so much kill them as trigger a lingering death. Picture the demise of the Wicked Witch of the West in slow motion. Yeah, something like that.

I tried every trick in the book to dry out the handset, but the 3210 could not be saved. The screen pixilated and was never without a ‘rainbow effect’ in one corner. The buttons stuck – sugary, carbonated drinks will do that – and the audio was fried.

21st Century Nokias

After the demise of my poor 3210, my mum kindly got me a second-hand 8210. It was tiny, lightweight and easy to hide from teachers. Thanks, mum! 😀

Noughties Nokia: The 8210

Infrared connectivity meant you could team up while playing Snake (another mini-mind explosion moment) and it had a cool, blue-lit background.

But the outer casing wasn’t as hardcore as its predecessors. I remember the case getting pummelled from everyday use, and eventually, looking like a washed-up, old transformer.

The 3310

The Nokia 3310 was a solid phone, recalling the stability and reliability of the 3110. It was a brilliant phone.

Snake was upgraded to Snake II and you could send really, long texts of 459 characters.

The 3330

It wasn’t long before I swapped my 3310 for a 3330, which was basically the same phone but with different games and WAP capabilities… not that I had any idea what that meant, but hey free upgrade!

Nokia 3310 handset
Is it the 3310 or the 3330? Basically the same phone.

The 3510: screens go technicolor

The Nokia 3510 was my first colour screen phone. Previously we had all been used to monochromatic screens with green backlights, but we didn’t have to slum it anymore! Colour screen mobiles had come to the unwashed masses.

Nokia 3510 handset with colour screen
That colour screen was a big deal back in the day

At this point, I cared less and less about pimping my phone out with a blinged-out cover and swish leather cases. I wanted a phone that could ‘do’ more! Did it have multiple language dictionaries? Internet capabilities? Was there a calculator? How many ringtones could I choose from? Important questions I’m sure you’ll agree?

By 2003, I was off to university, far away from home. I think I kept my Nokia 3510 throughout those scholarly years; although I’m sure I upgraded at some point (there was definitely a Blackberry and a Sony phone). The details are a little murky… from all of those late nights studying in the library. *ahem*

If you liked this then continue reading Part 2 of My Cellular History.

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