Lights, Camera, Action: Hollywood and Mobile Phones

Entertainment and pop culture have captured, and even predicted, the evolution of the mobile device.  

Who can forget the “brick phone”? It made one of its first on-screen debuts in “Wall Street” (1987) when Michael Douglas’ character delivered that famous line, “money never sleeps,” mirroring how business isn’t only done in the office during business hours. Zack Morris was the nation’s first cellphone-obsessed teen in “Saved by the Bell” (1989-1993), while movies like “Clueless” (1995) solidified new popularity in mobile phones among the younger generation.

As mobile technology began to transform in the 1990s and 2000s, the phones themselves started to shrink. Comedians like Ben Stiller in “Zoolander” (2001) and Will Ferrell in the “Saturday Night Live” “Jeffrey’s” skit (2001) were inspired to mock the shrinking technology with phones barely large enough to hold between fingers.

In addition to documenting the cell phone’s evolution, the entertainment industry can also be credited for showing glimpses into its future. Two of the first harbingers of things to come were Captain Kirk’s use of the Communicator in “The Cage” episode of “Star Trek” (1964) and Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone in the “Get Smart” TV series (1965-1970). Blockbusters like “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) foresaw the innovative abilities of smartphones today, like starting your vehicle or monitoring your home while away.

Hollywood predictions, however, aren’t always spot on. For instance, while “Back to the Future II“ (1989) hit the nail on the head with wearable technology that mimics Google Glass, Siri-like voice activated computing and robots like VGo, the film was off base when it highlighted futuristic phone booths.

So what’s next? Are recent movies like “Iron Man 2” (2010) suggesting that Tony Stark’s intuitive and holographic-enabled phone is the future for consumers? With augmented reality apps gaining headway, only time will tell, but in the meantime, Hollywood will continue to capture and try to predict the evolution of the mobile lifestyle.