GLOBAL – In 1987 Nokia launched the Mobira Cityman, the first handheld mobile phone that was to become a classic. That year Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was was pictured using one in a call from Helsinki to his communications minister in Moscow.
The Mobira Cityman 900 (above left) weighed nearly 2lb and had a price tag of 24,000 Finnish Marks. But not everyone shared the leader’s vision as one of our yuppy friends told us, claiming he was in Finland at the time. You know what they say, if you can remember the 80s, you weren’t there. So I wouldn’t believe a word of Jason Pinkerton’s account:
I put off buying a new car in 1987 because I wanted a Mobira Cityman. It cost me €4,560 back then. That’s about the equivalent of €10,000 today. But it was a great investment. It took me further than a car that cost twice that ever could.
And besides, I didn’t fancy having to extract the giant Mobira Talkman (above right) from my Merc and fitting it into this year’s model. I reckoned I must be one of the first men on the planet to own two mobile phones.
It didn’t take a genius to work out that this was the future of Nokia, but on the plane on the way over to Nokia’s conference I met a couple of guys who took some persuading. I wasn’t going to risk putting the Cityman in the overhead locker, so I kept it in my lap.
In any case, it was always a good talking point with stewardesses. Anyway, the two guys sitting next to me struck up a conversation when they saw the phone.
“You going to the Nokia conference?” asked one. “Yeah,” I said. “I feel sorry for your mobile guys,” he said. “Having to carry one of those things around all the time.
“And who do you talk to on it? Nobody else has one.
“Actually, I’m pitching for a deal to sell these in the UK and America,” I told him.
Anyway, Nigel and his chum Brian weren’t impressed. “So you must be a yuppy,” asked Brian.
“I’m young and upwardly mobile,” I said. “So yeah, why not? I can live with that.
“And why are you going to Helsinki,” I asked.
“Boots,” they said, almost in unison. “We are going to clean up. The rubber boot market is drying up,” said Nigel. “It’s all about plastic boots, these days. We reckon there’s a massive deal to be made for Nokia’s rubber boots.
“They can’t get rid of them quick enough. If you’re interested, there’s room for another partner in this.
“I mean, those mobile thingies, how long have they got? A year, two years tops?
“They’ll never catch on, will they. I know a chap who has one, he keeps it turned off all the time. It’s either his boss, or his wife calling.
“I mean, you never get any peace. And they cost a fortune.”
“This is the best investment I ever made,” I told Brian. “People see me walking along the street with one of these and they know I mean business.
“And if you don’t have one of these to put on the table at lunch, you might as well not be there.”
“Every one on Wall Street wants a Cityman. It means never having to miss out on a deal again in your life.
“Soon everyone will have one, even your mother. You should be begging me for a piece of the action.”
“It’s OK, we’ll stick to boots, thanks,” said Nigel. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you . . . ”
“Not without one of these,” I said.