Clamming up • Orchid

Clamming up

Clamming up

Allan Watts

There was an article in the Times Online this week about the developing trend among celebrities for retro phones, and in particular the old ‘clamshell’ type design or, as they call it in hip circles, the Flip. Apparently they are creating a demand for handsets that do nothing other than simple calls and texts. It got me thinking about all the old phones I have got in my man drawer at home.

There are several Nokias, a couple of Samsungs (come on Chelsea!) and one or two iterations of Sony Ericsson, Blackberry, HTCs and iPhones. The Nokias might become quite valuable at some point, especially since those mega-moguls at Microsoft have decided to drop the name. Gates Inc, as you probably know, took over Nokia’s handset operation at the beginning of the year and that has marked the finish of the Finnish marque. The new Lumia 535 is the first Nokia handset to be launched without the name. Which is quite sad for the brand that started it all back in 1973.

But, back to the man drawer. As well as the handsets I have kept all of the chargers and that’s important because no two chargers are ever the same. And a handset without its charger is a bit like a Corgi car without its box: worthless.

The very first phone I bought was a Technophone 305 PC215T. I think the T stood for Turbo, because that was very cool in those days. I acquired it from Rymans in Hampstead where my soon-to-be wife was living at the time. I was still here in Jersey and the stationers at the top of Hampstead High Street was selling Technophone mobiles for £99, for which you also got 450 Air Miles, which just happened to equate to one return flight to London from Jersey. So for me it was either a free trip to see the love of my life or a free phone for the price of a flight. Bargain. And if I was to sell it now, it is so rare I could probably get a return flight to Australia. First Class. Return.

You’ve probably never heard of Technophone. It was a British phone manufacturer (hence the really dull name) that advertised its phones as the smallest, lightest and most intelligent phones in the world – and the first to fit into a pocket. Yes, but only if you were wearing a clown suit! The company was set up by a Swede called Nils, who’d left Ericsson and brought all of his know-how with him. The Government gave him a grant but that didn’t stop his first phone – the M1 – costing £2,500. When he sold the company to Nokia for £50 million in 1991, their ‘pocket-sized phone’ still cost just shy of two grand.

This was the early 1990s when men wore moustaches and red braces, and mobile phones were still pretty rare. You couldn’t text, or take pictures, or check email. And you looked like a right Dom Joly on the train, with your big pull up aerial and batteries the size of a house brick. My phone came with two batteries: the sleek ‘slimline’ that would give you about 20 minutes of call time, and the sturdy monster battery that lasted for well up to an hour between charges.

Things have moved on of course but the story in the Times got me thinking: should I go for a bit of a rummage through the man drawer in search of fashionista gold? I mean, if hot Hollywood celebs are starting to retro fit their dialling digits, there’s sure to be a market isn’t there?

My Technophone has had the ignominy of ending up in our dressing up box, hidden in a gold vinyl handbag that is probably also coming back into fashion. My two boys pretend it is the control panel for a rocket launcher, which back in the day it probably was, only I didn’t realise it, and that would explain what that big red button was actually for that didn’t seem to do anything. Oops.

So what’s the fascination for old mobiles and why has this got the making to become a trend? Well, for a start it’s Hollywood’s A-Listers who are leading the charge. Celebs are fed up with being hacked, and having so much personal information such as photos and emails hanging around in the ether, which then get scattered across the gutter press. They want their phone to make and receive calls on, period.

So where will this leave the iPhone and Xperia, the HTC One, the Galaxy and every other model of smartphone? Probably safe because we have become so used to our lives being managed by these tools that mere mortals like us are unlikely to switch back quickly. And where would you manage to get one of these retro phones in any case? Most have already been recycled. Unless you’ve got a man drawer of course, in which case you could be sitting on a gold mine.

Technophone for Brangelina?