30 July 2011

1989: The Motorola MicroTAC - A Far More Mobile Mobile... And A Bit About GSM...

Advances in technology brought about the revolutionary Motorola MicroTAC phone of 1989 - the first step towards smaller mobile phones.

It was also massively influential, being the world's very first flip phone. The aerial, by the way, was simply ornament!

It really was incredible as, at that time, mobiles were like grandiose walkie-talkies. And you had to be a yuppie (or Del Boy Trotter) to afford one.

The decade which introduced the very first hand-held mobile, the DynaTAC 8000x in 1983, very much a brick, roared towards its end with this little beauty.

Of course it was analogue, but
the current system was on its way, and had been since 1982 when Groupe Sp├ęcial Mobil (GSM) was formed to design a pan-European mobile technology.

Behind the scenes planning often long pre-dates technology hitting the streets, and in that light it's amusing to relect that there were no hand-held mobile phones in 1982, and that the Mobira Senator, Nokia's very first mobile phone - a car phone released in 1982, weighed around twenty one pounds!

From 1982-1984, agreement on strategic targets for GSM was reached.

From 1985-1987, agreement on principles for services, network architecture, radio and speech coding in GSM was reached.

In 1986, trials of different digital radio transmission schemes and different speech codecs were carried out in several countries and comparative evaluations carried out by GSM.

1987 was the birth year of the current system, with GSM agreeing its basic parameters. This was finalised in May 1987 in Bonn. Then, in September 1987, a proposal was put forward to create an operator agreement in the form of a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’. This was drawn up and signed in Copenhagen in September by fifteen members from thirteen countries that committed to deploying GSM.

The BBC reported in 2007:

The technology behind the mobile phone is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

On 7 September 1987, 15 phone firms signed an agreement to build mobile networks based on the Global System for Mobile (GSM) Communications.

According to the GSM Association there are more than 2.5 billion accounts that use this mobile phone technology.

Adoption of the technology shows no signs of slowing down with many developing nations becoming keen users of mobile handsets.

Robert Conway, head of the GSM Association, said the memorandum of understanding signed in 1987 is widely seen as the moment when the global mobile industry got under way.

Although work on the GSM technical specifications began earlier (1982), the agreement signed in 1987 committed those operators to building networks based upon it.

"There's no doubt that at the time of the agreement in 1987 no one had an idea of the explosive capabilities in terms of growth that would happen after the GSM standard was agreed," he said.

As Paul Simon said back in the '80s, "These are the days of miracle and wonder..."

19 July 2011

Albion Market: The History Of Carol Broadbent...

Barbara Wilshere as Carol Broadbent, Albion Market cast card, 1985.

Ronni has written:

Very interested in your wonderful site, and enjoying all the 1980's soap stuff. I vaguely recall Albion Market and the character of Carol Broadbent as she made some sort of impact on me (judging from your article on the show, it was probably her hair-do!). Can you tell me about the character?

Happy to hear from you, Ronni. Glad you like the blog.

Carol Broadbent was played by Barbara Wilshere and was the YTS girl at Peggy's cafe on Albion Market when the show began. A lively girl with an '80s fashion sense, Carol confessed to always being in trouble at school as she was bored, but she seemed happy working at the cafe. Still living at home with her parents, Carol enjoyed experimenting with her hair and spent long periods with her head bent over pop magazines.

She was outgoing, rather immature, not academically gifted but inquisitive, and good hearted.

At the start of the series, Carol's YTS placement with Peggy at the Albion Market cafe was almost over, and Peggy was none too sure that it made good business sense to start paying the girl wages. Although enthusiastic and a definite plus when it came to the atmosphere in the cafe, being a lively conversationalist and good with customers, Carol had a sad habit of breaking things.

Carol was worried and tearful for a time, fearing a return to unemployment, but then Peggy developed a summer cold, Carol proved herself a worthy stand-in, and with a little help from Phil Smith, the cook at the cafe, was taken on as permanent staff.

Carol was good friends with Lisa O'Shea, who worked on her mother's household goods stall on the market, and disdainful of "spotty Keith" - Keith Naylor, the market superintendent's assistant.

She proved her worth when she captured Keith's escaped pet boa constrictor, which had made its way onto the market, and finally turned up in the cafe! She tried to prove her worth further by beginning a "butty run", taking sandwiches, drinks and cakes around to the market traders to sell, but Peggy was never convinced that it was a worthwhile venture.

Carol almost lost her job when she accepted an invitation to a pop concert in Brighton with some friends. Carol thought they meant New Brighton, but Brighton, Sussex, was the venue. When Carol was AWOL from work the next day, Peggy was sorely tempted to sack her, but did eventually see the funny side.

Having accepted an invitation to play squash with Jaz Sharma, a Ugandan Asian who ran the market's fashion clothes stall with his brother, Raju, Carol became attracted to him. Jaz liked to play the field and was never serious about Carol, but Carol read far more into things.

When the prospect of an arranged marriage for Jaz raised its head, Carol was hurt. She handled things badly by becoming angry with Jaz, and encouraging Keith Naylor to hit him during an argument at the cafe. When Jaz ended up hitting Keith instead, Carol was incensed, demanding that Keith got up from the floor and hit back. This was the first evidence that there was a side to this young woman which could mean trouble.

Life settled down again, and Carol studied meditation with help from stall-holder Lam Quoc Hoa, and looked on a little enviously at her friend Lisa's steamy but stormy relationship with cake and biscuit seller Tony Fraser.

When Jaz Sharma was "had up" on the charge of murdering racist Oliver Shawcross, who ran the Albion Market toy stall, Carol rushed to his aid, proving to be an excellent friend and enduring adverse comment from Oliver's fellow racists. As Jaz awaited trial, Carol proved to be one of his staunchest allies.

Unfortunately, Carol had become rather bored with her job, and her schooldays tendency to land herself in trouble re-emerged. When cafe cook Phil Smith went to live "down South" on a temporary basis to further his studies (Phil was a keen sculptor), Carol became aware that something might be happening between Colette Johnson, Phil's partner and the mother of his child, who worked as a barmaid at the market's local pub, The Waterman's Arms, and Tony Fraser - Lisa's handsome, Scots boyfriend. Carol was a friend of Phil's, a friend of Lisa's, and saw every reason to stand in judgement over Colette and Tony.

Colette had only recently moved to The Waterman's, leaving behind her friends in her old district and, feeling vulnerable, she had succumbed to the advances of Tony Fraser after Phil's departure, and regretted it ever since. But Carol could not see the finer points of the situation. Despite Carol's confident assertion that girls grow up quicker than boys, those of us "in the know" are aware that it's down to the individual. Carol gave Colette a hard time, despite Peggy's pleas for her to back off, and bad feeling took a while to dissipate.

Carol and Peggy Sagar (Paula Jacobs) look on as new cook Paul O'Donnell (Paul Beringer) attempts to produce something edible at the cafe.

When Jaz was found Not Guilty of killing Oliver Shawcross, Carol thought this was the green light for them to be together. But, although grateful for her support and friendship, a seriously shaken Jaz was not thinking along the same lines at all. Carol was angry and bitter.

More bored than ever with the cafe, and let down (as she saw it) by Jaz, Carol set her sights on becoming a hairdresser at Viv Harker's smart new salon which was just about to open on the market. She faked illness to avoid telling Peggy that she was going for interview, and was convinced, as Keith Naylor was a friend of Viv's, that she would get the job as trainee. She didn't.

Startled and angry, Carol was not prepared for Peggy to discover the fact that she had attended the interview with Viv, and told her a cock and bull story about Viv promising her a job and then letting her down.

Peggy confronted Viv, discovered that Carol was telling porkies, and told the girl she would have to go. Carol was devastated, and hoped to change Peggy's mind, working hard at the cafe and exhibiting some of the old qualities of warmth and enthusiasm which had originally commended her to her employer.

Peggy had a sometimes fearsome exterior, but was not really a hard woman. And with her own daughter living abroad, she had grown fond of Carol. But Carol had gone too far. The atmospheres she'd caused in the cafe in recent months - arguing with regulars, even arguing with Peggy, and the lies she had told over "fainting" to cover her interview with Viv, not to mention the follow-up lies regarding Viv virtually promising to employ her, meant Peggy could do only one thing - which she did with a heavy heart.

Carol was given her cards.

Peggy told her that she'd gone along with her, but Carol hadn't reciprocated. If the loss of her job served as a lesson...

Carol ran from the cafe in floods of tears, and was not seen there again.

She was missed - earlier in the series she'd brought humour and colour to the show with her daffy ways and outlandish hairstyles.

However, viewers couldn't help but agree with Peggy's decision.

Carol had become a serious pain in the neck!

The role was played by actress Barbara Wilshere, herself a few years older than Carol, with great skill. It was easy to believe in the character.

And Carol, at least for the majority of her reign, remains a fondly remembered member of the Albion Market gang - a soap opera which, I feel, was not given enough time to adjust and thrive by ITV.

I'm pretty sure it would have done, given that time - and, of course, the right scheduling.

Read our main Albion Market feature here.