A pocketful of devices: the inventions that shaped the smartphone 

NEMO Science Museum

Today’s smartphones combine a large number of innovations from the past, such as the phone, the portable music player, the television, the voice recorder, the flashlight, the calculator, the camera and many more. All of these devices were developed over the course of the past several centuries. Dive headfirst into NEMO’s collection and see what came before today’s technology. Which devices would you like to try?

A line to the outside world 
Thanks to smartphones, virtually no one is unreachable anymore, and we’re no longer tied to landlines. What now seems so normal was completely unthinkable even just a 100 years ago. The first phones were showpieces in many households. Today, using mobile telephony, you can easily talk to someone on the other side of the world. Early telephone design produced a number of very specific expressions that we still use today. In the past, phones used to ‘ring off the hook’, people used to ‘dial’ a number and ‘be on the line with someone’. Can you discover why? 

In June 2007, Apple introduced the first-generation iPhone in the United States.

The Gigaset 2015 Plus is a so-called DECT telephone. DECT, which stands for Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications.

The Ericophone was born from the desire to make a one-piece telephone.

The phone features a red-button hook contact. Because of the position, users would sometimes inadvertently hang up the phone when they wanted to put the device down while making a call.

The ‘T’ stands for table-top device, with the number 65 referring to its year of introduction. Over the course of its production run, about 9 to 10 million of these phones were produced.

By turning the dynamo, or inductor, the switchboard operator could be contacted.

Everyone’s a DJ
There’s no shortage of radio stations, personalized music suggestions and YouTube playlists these days. The supply of music is seemingly endless. Today, it’s difficult to imagine families used to spend their Saturday evenings huddled around a single radio. These days, you stream from your phone to your speakers, and fill your living room with your favourite songs.   Take a look at the radios in NEMO’s collection. Two of them were given nicknames in the Netherlands: het kapelletje (the Chapel) and de muziektempel (the Music Temple). How would you nickname these radios?

This is the most iconic Nordmende radio and favourite of designer Raymond Loewy.

The radio has four wavelength ranges, and each range has its own colour code on the buttons and tuning scale.

The radio was available in nine colour combinations and with one or two speakers.

Panasonic's very compact pocket radio was one of the first portable transistor radios

The Philips Muziektempel (Music Temple) is a beautiful piece of technology and aesthetic design.

Tuning was done by means of a ‘shining star,’ a system with a lamp that gets brighter to indicate when the signal is strongest as the user turns the tuning knob.

The 'Kapelletje' (little chapel) was designed by Louis Kalff, who designed the Evoluon in Eindhoven among other things, and was one of the first designer products from Philips.

The 'Roggebroodje' (rye bread) was the first radio for the commercial market and consists of three parts: a receiver, a transformer, and a speaker.

The crystal receiver was one of the first radio receivers and is actually a simple version of a radio.

From TV tube to touchscreen 
Starting in the 1950s, TV began carving out a place for itself in Dutch households, with Dutch manufacturer Philips acting as one of the driving forces. The Eindhoven-based company marketed the television as a way for families to come together.   Soon after its introduction, television started to change in leaps and bounds. The first televisions had very small screens. Nowadays, 40-inch flat-screen TVs are the rule rather than the exception. Yet more and more people are now catching up on their favourite series by watching small screens... on their smartphones. Can you work out what all those knobs on the television were used for? 

This is the only television that Indesit put on the market. Although the television is portable, this set does not have an external battery.

This is one of the first commercially available colour televisions.

Thanks to the green, red, and blue buttons in the top right corner.

The first commercially available television from Philips was also called the ‘Doghouse’. The black-and-white television has four channels selectors and a screen that measures 22 centimetres.

Wind back the clock
To send someone a voice message, all you have to do is tap the microphone icon in your messaging app. The physical microphone you use to record yourself is just a tiny part in your smartphone. Not too long ago, recording devices were still several times larger than current smartphones – good luck trying to send someone a voice message using one of those.   The devices we use to store sound have also undergone huge changes over the past century. Now, we can store hours and hours of audio, but in 1928, so-called parlographs used enormous wax cylinders that would have never fitted into your smartphone.   Take a look at the audio-recording devices in NEMO’s collection.   Just imagine, in the past people sometimes had to wait several days before they could listen to their voice messages. 

The first compact cassette recorder was revolutionary, because it made sound recording technology affordable for everyone.

This is the first Dutch consumer recorder that Philips placed on the market. When it was introduced it cost 798 guilders, which was two-month's salary.

To make a recording a wax roll is slid onto the parlograph. The parlograph then converts the sound vibrations to scratches on this roll.

This wax roll can then be played again, reproducing the sound.

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