I remember in 2005, I had to walk to the nearest payphone box just to call a friend. I had no cellphone. Cellphones weren’t easily accessible back then.

Today, we have cellphones and can instantly get hold of anyone around the world, if not through calls, then through text and social media. But how did it all start?

Let’s take a look back in history at life before cellphones and how it has evolved…

How did people communicate before cell phones?

Humans were born to communicate. Humans would communicate using smoke signals, messengers and sending handwritten letters from one area to another. This later evolved to using telegrams and landlines.

Smoke signals: this was used to communicate with people from distant places, it was understood by the sender and the receiver. This practice happened in 200BC.

Messengers: a messenger on horse or on foot would be sent from one region to another with messages, this occurred during the Medieval times in the 5th – 15th century.

Letters: handwritten notes were written and sent to people, this was a common practice.

Telegrams: the telegram was a machine used to type messages in one location and then sent them to a different location. It could only send a limited number of words in a given period of time.

Landline phones: before the invention of cellphones, landlines were used to communicate.

Who invented the first phone?

In 1871, Alexandra Graham Bell started working on the harmonic telegraph., This was a device that allowed multiple messages to be transmitted over a wire at the same time. As he worked on the harmonic telegraph, he wanted to find a way to transmit the human voice over the wire.

After much investigation, by 1875, Bell, with the help of his partner Thomas Watson, had come up with a receiver that could turn electricity into sound. There were other scientists also working on the same invention, but Bell was recognised for it.

The timeline and evolution of the telephone to a cellphone:


Alexander Bell invented the world’s the first telephone, which was the liquid transmitter. It was a device that could transmit speech electronically. In 1877 the first official telephone lines were established.


The first telephone exchanges were performed by a switchboard throughout the late 1800s and turn of the century. Almon B. Strowger invented the telephone that could perform the first automatic telephone exchange and did not require an operator.

1970s – 1980s:

Decades later, touchtone dialling and the first cordless phone were developed in 1970. An experiment with picture-phone systems was developed to transmit images throughout a phone call. It was dismissed due to it being too expensive but was later incorporated into a personal computer. A new revolution was discovered in the 80s with the first testing of VoIP service, caller ID and the introduction of the mobile phone.


The IBM Simon – which was a touchscreen device – featured applications such as, an address book, calendar, appointment scheduler, calculator, world time clock, electronic notepad, handwritten annotations, and predictive screen keyboards. This was the beginning of the cellphone era with people rushing to get their hands on a cellphone.


Throughout the 2000s technology kept advancing. Mobile phones became more compact, offered high-resolution screens and had more features than ever before. VoIP technology expanded into businesses and applications, and text/voice/video software such as Skype allowed people to connect in even more ways.


Cellphones have evolved into smartphones in which we now rely on our cell phones more than ever before. Cellphones are now used for maps, shopping online, meetings, news updates, cameras, finding out the weather, and many more.

It is amazing how technology has evolved, from smoke signals to now having our entire daily planners on our cellphones. The benefits of this are to stay connected to people, maintain relationships and overall have entertainment at our fingertips.


Do you know why we have WhatsApp today? Read here to find out more.
Tell us: Do you remember when you got your first cellphone? How did it impact your life?