In-car Telephones

The man is driving an early Range Rover; the angle of the windscreen gives it away. Note that he probably isn't going off-road, because he's not wearing wellies. It's possible that he has taken them off in order to use the pedals, in which case the interior of the Range Rover probably smells a bit.

This man's fashion sense was old-fashioned in 1983, but technical people are allowed to wear odd clothes because we need them. That said, we tend to think of the past as a series of discrete intervals, between which everything was thrown away, but there's no reason why this fellow shouldn't have continued to look like Man of 1974 into the age of Thatcher if he wanted to. The recent spate of 'I Love...' television shows reinforce this arbitrary packaging of the past - things that appear in one year are forgotten the next, which just doesn't happen.

Moustaches were well and truly on the way out in the 80s, even in the north. The only people on television who had moustaches were the soldiers in the Falklands, and Dickie Davies. Moustaches never made a comeback, although David Seaman's doesn't look too bad. Goatees were quite trendy in the mid-90s but are now also quite dated. Facial hair, in general, is bad form unless you're from the Middle East, which seems odd given that it's so hot over there; you'd think a clean face would keep their chins cool.

The subject of this article is in-car telephony, as opposed to in-car radiophony, which had been around for decades. The article mentions CB radio, which didn't really take off in the UK on account of the UK being miserable, tiny, and poor. In-car telephony was achieved in 1983 with British Telecom's 'Telecom Radiophone' system, a clumsy (and presumably quite expensive) operation that involved radioing an operator who would then connect you to the telephone network.

"A completely new 'cellular' mobile phone system is due to be set up during the next two or three years by Telecom, in partnership with Racal Millicom."

And indeed it was. It was 'proper' telephony, and it steadily grew until about 1997, at which point it exploded. Nowadays, everybody owns on average three mobile phones. Children own mobile phones. Old people own mobile phones. People in the Middle East own mobile phones. Telephone boxes still exist, but are in terminal decline except as means of advertising prostitutes, or weeing.

British Telecommunications PLC had been spun off from the Post Office in 1980 and was privatised in 1984, to much hoo-ha about Thatcher's insane policies wrecking Britain's family jewels, etc. The privatisation netted the government eighteen thousand million billion pounds and helped fund Nigel Lawson's tax-cutting budgets of the late-80s. British Telecom is now an extremely profitable company, albiet from the position of a near-monopoly, and there is nothing left to privatise apart from the Post Office itself, which nobody wants, and the NHS, which has a great sentimental hold on the British public, as did all the old nationalised industries. And the BBC, people like that. Except for the Tories, who hated it, and still do.

(c) Ashley Pomeroy 2001