The last thing that film researchers must have expected to find when they opened the film cannister they’d found in an archive of 1921 through 1933 films, was a film of two women using what is unquestionably a wireless, mobile (for some value of the word “mobile”) telephone. Yes, you read that right – a working wireless, mobile (although barely portable) telephone, in 1922.
The film was found in the archives of Eve’s Review, a women’s magazine in film form that ran between 1921 and 1933 (and today’s video bloggers – or “vloggers” – think that they are so cutting edge!).
In the film you see two women walking along a snowy street, one carrying an umbrella, and the other a small wooden flip-top box.
The women stop at a fire hydrant, and the box is opened to reveal a small phone set. The umbrella is opened, and the phone set and umbrella are linked via wires that are first wrapped around the top of the hydrant. You then see the women talking with a telephone operator who is in some other location, and who plays a gramophone record over the phone for the other two women.
Says Mark Harris, a spokesperson for British Pathe, the organization that ran Eve’s Review, “It’s amazing that nearly 90 years ago mobile phone technology and music on the move was not only being thought of but being trialled,” adding that “One of our researchers came across the clip and we were amazed that the idea was so old, we are used to budding technologies appearing in the 1950s and 60s but this is four years before television was first demonstrated. The phone even has a lid which makes it the first flip-phone we are aware of, although it is probably not going to win any design awards.”
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Little is known about the film, or its subjects, other than what can be divined from watching it. Harris notes, “We would be delighted to hear from anyone who can tell us anything about the film, from where it is shot to who the women might be or even about the phone itself.”
Here’s the film – enjoy!:
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