India’s First Call From a Mobile Was on This Day 20 Years Ago

On July 31, 1995, West Bengal CM Jyoti Basu made the first mobile call to Sukh Ram, the then-Communications Minister.

Updated31 Jul 2015, 12:11 PM IST
Tech News
3 min read

India’s baby steps to its mobile revolution were taken on this day, on July 31, 1995 – almost 20 years ago, when West Bengal CM Jyoti Basu made the first mobile call to Sukh Ram, the then-Union Communications Minister through India’s first mobile operator, Modi Telstra (later called Spice Telecom), according to The Times of India.

Today, a mobile phone is many things – it is a gaming and social media centre, a music player, and an Internet packed device which brings the world at your fingertips. But back then, a mobile phone was just that – a device to make and receive calls!

And though the days of humble phones seem like from a millennium back, the evolution from trunk to touch in India happened only over a period of 20 years. Don’t believe us? Read on.

Romancing the Rotary

A vintage telephone. (Photo: iStockphoto)
A vintage telephone. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Telephones first came to India in the form of rotary phones. The phones consisted of a dial and a receiver. The rotary dial consisted of all the digits arranged in a circular finger wheel. To dial each digit, one had to rotate the dial all the way to the end.

Soon enough, the rotary phone became a symbol of romance and love across distance in popular culture, as seen in the exchanges between Sunil Dutt and Nutan from this song in Sujata (1959).

Going Cordless

A cordless phone. (Photo: iStockphoto)
A cordless phone. (Photo: iStockphoto)

For an entire generation, cordless phones symbolised one thing — discovery of privacy at homes, and endless talking time with school crushes. One didn’t have to conduct all conversations in front of chacha, chachi, and that distant cousin from Punjab. You could discreetly take the phone to your room, and swoon over that new girl in class!

‘Excuse Me, That’s my Pager.’

For kids growing up in the 90s, the pager was the ultimate sign of sophistication – of having arrived, and of doing serious work.

 A two way pager was a device that allowed wireless communication from 1997 onwards. (Photo: Reuters)
A two way pager was a device that allowed wireless communication from 1997 onwards. (Photo: Reuters)

Funnily enough, the pager also became synonymous with another ‘business’ –the do nambari kaam, if you will. Remember Pappu Pager from David Dhawan’s Deewana Mastana (1997)?

What is Mobile Number?

Old models of Nokia mobile phones made India mobile. (Photo: Reuters) 
Old models of Nokia mobile phones made India mobile. (Photo: Reuters) 

In its early days, owning a mobile phone was a rarity.

The beginning of cellular communication in India is almost synonymous with the growth of those clunky Nokia phones in the country.

And soon enough, all of India was hooked to its mobile games – c’mon, who hasn’t played Snakes and not bragged about their scores! Mobiles also gave India a new pick up line – what is mobile number, karoon kya dial number!

Get Smart, Guys

Using new technology. (Photo: iStockphoto) 
Using new technology. (Photo: iStockphoto) 

But what really brought the mobile revolution to roost was the smartphone. Touch screens and a million apps gave Indians a solid digital footprint. And with a new smartphone hitting the market everyday, spoiling Indians with choice, we can only nod in amusement.

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Published: 31 Jul 2015, 11:45 AM IST
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