A Pocketful of Devices: the Inventions That Shaped the Smartphone

By 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 POCKETFUL OF DEVICES (2018-12-18) by NEMO Science MuseumNEMO Science Museum

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? 

Smarpthone, Apple, 2007, From the collection of: NEMO Science Museum
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In June 2007, Apple introduced the first-generation iPhone in the United States.

Telephone View 2, From the collection of: NEMO Science Museum
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The Gigaset 2015 Plus is a so-called DECT telephone. DECT, which stands for Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications.

Telephone Telephone (1978) by EricssonNEMO Science Museum

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

Telephone View 2NEMO Science Museum

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.

Telephone, multiple, 1965/1987, From the collection of: NEMO Science Museum
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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.

Telephone, Emil Møllers Telefonfabrikker, 1915, From the collection of: NEMO Science Museum
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By turning the dynamo, or inductor, the switchboard operator could be contacted.

A POCKETFUL OF DEVICES (2018-12-18) by NEMO Science MuseumNEMO Science Museum

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?

Transistor radio Transistor radio (1968) by NordmendeNEMO Science Museum

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.

Transistor radio View 2NEMO Science Museum

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

Pocket radio (1962) by PanasonicNEMO Science Museum

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

Tube radio (1935) by PhilipsNEMO Science Museum

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.

Tube radio, Philips, Louis Kalff, 1931, From the collection of: NEMO Science Museum
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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.

Tube radio, Philips, Louis Kalff, 1927, From the collection of: NEMO Science Museum
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The 'Roggebroodje' (rye bread) was the first radio for the commercial market and consists of three parts: a receiver, a transformer, and a speaker.

Crystal receiver, onbekend, 1900/1925, From the collection of: NEMO Science Museum
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The crystal receiver was one of the first radio receivers and is actually a simple version of a radio.

A POCKETFUL OF DEVICES (2018-12-18) by NEMO Science MuseumNEMO Science Museum

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? 

Portable black-and-white television (1970) by IndesitNEMO Science Museum

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

Television set (1967) by PhilipsNEMO Science Museum

This is one of the first commercially available colour televisions.

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

Black-and-white television (1949/1951) by PhilipsNEMO Science Museum

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.

A POCKETFUL OF DEVICES (2018-12-18) by NEMO Science MuseumNEMO Science Museum

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. 

Portable cassette recorder, Philips, 1963, From the collection of: NEMO Science Museum
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The first compact cassette recorder was revolutionary, because it made sound recording technology affordable for everyone.

Reel-to-reel tape recorder, Philips, 1952/1954, From the collection of: NEMO Science Museum
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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.

Parlograph (1911) by Carl Lindström A.G.NEMO Science Museum

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.

A POCKETFUL OF DEVICES (2018-12-18) by NEMO Science MuseumNEMO Science Museum

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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