Главная страница «Первого сентября»Главная страница журнала «Английский язык»Содержание №20/2008

Vital Part of Daily Life for Many People

When I was searching for some information in the Internet I visited www.britishcouncil.org and found a very interesting article titled “Mobile Phones”. I liked the contents of the article and decided that it could be very informative and useful to English learners. I have made up some tasks which can be done after reading the material.


When Scotsman Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, it was a revolution in communication. For the first time, people could talk to each other over great distances almost as clearly as if they were in the same room. Nowadays, though, we increasingly use Bell’s invention for emails, faxes and the internet rather than talking. Over the last two decades a new means of spoken communication has emerged: the mobile phone.

The modern mobile phone is a more complex version of the two-way radio. Traditional two-way radio was a very limited means of communication. As soon as the users moved out of range of each other’s broadcast area, the signal was lost. In the 1940s, researchers began experimenting with the idea of using a number of radio masts located around the countryside to pick up signals from two-way radios. A caller would always be within range of one of the masts; when he moved too far away from one mast, the next mast would pick up the signal. (Scientists referred to each mast’s reception area as being a separate “cell”; this is why in many countries mobile phones are called “cell phones”.)

However, 1940s technology was still quite primitive, and the “telephones” were enormous boxes which had to be transported by car.

The first real mobile telephone call was made in 1973 by Dr. Martin Cooper, the scientist who invented the modern mobile handset. As soon as his invention was complete, he tested it by calling a rival scientist to announce his success. Within a decade, mobile phones became available to the public. The streets of modern cities began to feature sharp-suited characters shouting into giant plastic bricks. In Britain the mobile phone quickly became synonymous with the “yuppie”, the new breed of young urban professionals who carried the expensive handsets as status symbols. Around this time many of us swore that we would never, ever own a mobile phone.

But in the mid-90s, something happened. Cheaper handsets and cheaper calling rates meant that, almost overnight, it seemed that everyone had a mobile phone. And the giant plastic bricks of the 80s had evolved into smooth little objects that fitted nicely into pockets and bags. In every pub and restaurant you could hear the bleep and buzz of mobiles ringing and registering messages, occasionally breaking out into primitive versions of the latest pop songs. Cities suddenly had a new, postmodern birdsong.

Moreover, people’s timekeeping changed. Younger readers will be amazed to know that, not long ago, people made spoken arrangements to meet at a certain place at a certain time. Once a time and place had been agreed, people met as agreed. Somewhere around the new millennium, this practice started to die out. Meeting times became approximate, subject to change at any moment under the new order of communication: the Short Message Service (SMS) or text message. Going to be late? Send a text message! It takes much less effort than arriving on time, and it’s much less awkward than explaining your lateness face-to-face. It’s the perfect communication method for the busy modern lifestyle. Like email before it, the text message has altered the way we write in English, bringing more abbreviations and a more lax approach to language construction. The160-character limit on text messages has led to a new, abbreviated version of English for fast and instantaneous communication. Traditional rules of grammar and spelling are much less important when you’re sitting on the bus, hurriedly typing “Will B 15min late - C U @ the bar. Sorry! :-)”.

Mobile phones, once the preserve of the high-powered businessperson and the “yuppie”, are now a vital part of daily life for an enormous amount of people. From schoolchildren to pensioners, every section of society has found that it’s easier to stay in touch when you’ve got a mobile. Over the last few years mobiles have become more and more advanced, with built-in cameras, global positioning devices and internet access. And in the next couple of years, we can expect to see the arrival of the “third generation” of mobile phones: powerful micro-computers with broadband internet access, which will allow us to watch TV, download internet files at high speed and send instant video clips to friends.

Alexander Graham Bell would be amazed if he could see how far the science of telephony has progressed in less than 150 years. If he were around today, he might say: “That’s gr8! But I’m v busy rite now. Will call U 2nite.”

By Craig Duncan


email – a system that allows you to send and receive messages by computer or a message that is sent from one person to another using the email system.
fax – a letter or message that is sent in electronic form down a telephone line and then printed using a special machine.
the Internet – a computer system that allows millions of computer users around the world to exchange information.
mast – a tall metal tower that sends out radio and television signals.
enormous – very big in size or in amount.
handset – the part of a mobile phone that you hold in your hand.
available – something that is able to be used or can easily be bought or found.
to evolve – to develop and change gradually over a long period of time.
bleep – a short high sound made by a piece of electronic equipment.
buzz – a continuous noise like the sound of a bee.
abbreviation – a short form of a word or expression.
lax – not strict or careful enough.
instantaneous – happening immediately.
broadband – a system of connecting computers to the Internet and moving information, such as messages or pictures, at a very high speed.
to download – to move information or programs from a computer network to a small computer.

Task 1. Say if these statements are true or false.

1) When Scotsman Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, his invention was considered to be unimportant. T/F
2) The modern mobile phone is a more complex version of the two-way radio. T/F
3) In 1940s the “telephones” were smooth little objects that fitted nicely into pockets and bags. T/F
4) Dr. Martin Cooper tested the modern mobile handset by calling his friend to announce his success. T/F
5) In the mid-90s handsets and calling rates became more expensive, that’s why very few people could afford a mobile phone. T/F
6) After mobile phones had been invented people’s timekeeping changed. T/F
7) Every section of society has found that it’s easier to stay in touch when you’ve got a mobile. T/F

Task 2. Write the words and word combinations under the headings below. Summarize the contents of the article using them.

Task 3. Answer the questions.

1) Why do people use mobile phones?
2) Why are mobile phones called “cell phones” in many countries?
3) What were the first telephones like?
4) When was the first real mobile telephone call made?
5) What was the mobile phone synonymous with in Britain?
6) What were mobile phones like in the 80s? How did they change in the 90s?
7) How has the text message altered the way we write in English?
8) Why are mobile phones a vital part of daily life for many people?
9) What opportunities do modern mobiles give to their users?
10) What will the “third generation” of mobile phones be like?

Task 4. Read what different people say about mobile phones. Give your own pros and cons.

“I can’t live without my mobile phone. Thanks to it I can be reachable everywhere and I can never miss something important. If I need some help, I just call my friends and they rush to rescue me. If I have a meeting and I’m late, I can send an SMS with my excuses. It is very fast and convenient. I’m fond of taking photos and sending them to my friends. The only problem is that I spend too much money on my mobile phone.”

Ann, 22, student

“I have two children and a mobile phone makes my life much easier. If I worry about my kids, I can call them and make sure they are all right. But I begin to hate my mobile phone on weekends and on holidays. I feel that I have no privacy when I know that every minute my friends, colleagues and my boss can call me and find me wherever I am. Sometimes I feel so exhausted that I go to bed earlier and forget to turn off my mobile phone. As a rule I’m awakened as soon as I fall asleep because somebody has forgotten to tell me something unimportant or to ask me to render him a service. Some people don’t understand that I’m not obliged to answer their calls 24 hours a day.”

Katherine, 35, shop assistant






Task 5. Read some quotations by famous people about mobile phones and comment on them.

By Svetlana Yunyova ,
Moscow Regional Pedagogical College, Serpukhov