The world's first flip phone cost $1,000 in 1996. Here's what it bought you

The world's first flip phone cost $1,000 in 1996. Here's what it bought you

The folded-up flip phone sits in front of me like a child's plastic plaything, a rainbow of terraced ridges that starts with a bump the color of earwax before cascading down to blue, green, that sickly yellow again and finally to brick red on the back and sides. It has a SIM card the size of your Visa, a pull-out antenna wobbling on a slender stalk and a hinge that lets you fold it in half to slide the handset into your pocket. It's irresistible. Palming it, I suppress a huff of affection for this adorable, ridiculous device; unabashedly plastic, flaunting its roughly 1.75-inch screen like some kind of cellular royalty, easily as famous in its heyday as the iPhone is now. Looking back from 2020, it's hard to believe that it was. This StarTAC 70 "Rainbow" model that I snagged on eBay is a relatively rare variation of the Motorola StarTAC, an early "it" cell phone, and the world's first flip phone... ever. The Rainbow StarTAC version is from 1998, but Motorola -- already famous for placing the first-ever cell phone call in 1973 -- had applied for the StarTAC trademark three years before. In fact, that was 25 years ago, in 1995. A quarter of a century. It wasn't until Jan. 6, 1996 that the black plastic phone officially debuted, but when it did, the result was momentous. The original StarTAC was so small by the standards of the day -- most phones were 5 to 7 inches tall -- Motorola ...
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