This book came as quite a surprise to me as it is 1. Non-fiction and 2. drastically outside my typical reading interest. I was assigned the book for my Introduction to Mobile ICT’s class and for some reason took a gamble and decided to buy off Amazon rather than tracking it down in the library. I’m so glad that I did!
Constant Touch is, as its subtitle suggests, the history of the mobile phone starting in the late 19th century and moving in the present. More so, it touches on the phenomenon across the globe not just in The United States and Europe. Before I get into the granular about the book itself, I must send special acknowledgement to its author Jon Agar. Agar is a professor of Information and Technology studies at University College London and has become known for his writing on contemporary technologies and the history of modern science and technology. I wish to give special considerations to Agar because his writing style in Constant Touch proved to be very engaging even for someone who would normally have been resistant. Agar writes in a manner that is relatively easy to digest yet is not “dumbed down.” (Maybe it is, but it certainly doesn't feel that way). Furthermore, Constant Touch is NOT a manual or technical guide; it is a first-person narrative looking to capture the piqued reader.
So let’s talk about Constant Touch. Like all good stories, Agar begins the history of the mobile phone at the beginning…but I bet you don’t actually know what that beginning is? This story begins with the development of radio technology and the idea of transmission through wireless devices. As chance would have it, the earliest developments in this technology were in Maritime navigation as it took carriers as large and powerful as ships to even carry the earliest radio transmitters (a semblance of this technology is still used in maritime vessels). From here the story progresses through the 20th century and the marriage of mobile phones in cars, the development of component technology and controversy, and finally to the production of the first mobile phone prototype created by Bell Labs (now a division of AT&T). Throughout the book, Agar also discusses how mobile phones developed across the world, including in third world countries, and how these technological advances have shaped (or how society pushed the advancement of mobile technology) our 21st century culture.
I never before would have believed that I would have found such an in-depth analysis of cell phone technology so interesting but alas! There is of course, so much more to be said but I wouldn't want to take away to mystery of reading it for yourself!