Britain’s first mobile phone call was made 30 years ago. At midnight, during New Year celebrations in 1985, Michael Harrison called his family home in Surrey from Parliament Square.
He recalls the historic moment talking to the BBC and explains that he spoke to his father, Sir Ernest Harrison. Michael said in the conversation: “Hi Dad, it’s Mike. Happy New Year. This is the first ever call on a UK mobile network.”
The older Harrison was then the chairman of new company Racal Vodafone — now one of the big four network operators in the UK and beyond.
Vodafone says in a press release that Harrison, then 24, used a Vodafone’s Transportable VN1 model to speak to his father. It weighed about 5kg.
Here’s a YouTube video account with the full conversation:
Vodafone was one of two firms first given a licence to operate. The other was BT Cellnet and as the BBC mentions, the two were in a race to get going and create a marketable service. Vodafone won: BT missed the mark by a matter of weeks.
Before the call, Vodafone sold its first mobile phone, the Huffington Post says. The £1,200 device was bought by a man called Mungo Park in Sept. 1984. It was the Vodafone VM1,a Panasonic-in car unit attached to a big box by a cable.
And with a new business of mobile phones, a more portable world that changed how we communicate, the first advertisements for the product were made. Vodafone’s first, in May 1986, is quite possibly the most 80s thing you’ll ever see. It features a bunch of cartoon mobile phones with human legs walking around.
Here it is: