Life begins at 40. And so it is as we celebrate the big 4-0 for the first mobile phone call. This is a device that has sorry, just need to take this done so much to improve communication, increase economic efficiency and bring mankind closer together. But its best years may be still to come.

One minute a fashion accessory, friend, entertainer and easy distraction, the next the mobile is a work tool, outsourced brain, entrepreneur or glorious handmaiden for people's revolutions. ...

For this we can thank Motorola technician Marty Cooper. He used a so-called "brick" to call his rival at Bell Labs on April 3, 1973. It did not drop out. Even so, at the time Motorola thought it would take three years to have a model ready for specialist users. Cooper didn't think it would ever be adopted through extensive networks. He was almost right.

It took nearly a decade before consumers could buy a mobile, for a hefty price. It was a further decade before a hand-size model and text messaging emerged.

In the mid-1990s smartphones accelerated the evolution and by 2003 phones could merge email, text and phone functions. At that stage mobiles were estimated to save the average worker 20 minutes a week a small productivity improvement but one dwarfed by the spread of advanced smartphones since, pushed along by the iPhone in 2007.

It's easy to forget the problems the community has encountered in coping with mobiles.

The cancer fears. The lingering fights over mobile phone towers.


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The way drivers have risked their lives and everyone else's just to get that call. The fight to save public phone boxes for the tech non-savvy. The tendency to carry work home with you. And the freedom mobiles accord children, and the associated access to unsuitable content and unsavoury people.

Business models have also been shaken in ways no one predicted. People are reading news on their mobiles and betting through them. Pub trading between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. has sagged because people call and message to work out where they are going out rather than meeting at the hotel to decide. Shopping centres are being replaced by online store warehouses.

Then there are the coverage dropouts. Forty years on and black spots remain the bugbear of every mobile user including Marty Cooper, who has told the BBC he bemoans how the industry has focused on faster speeds at the expense of shoring up network coverage.

But for all the years it took and all the obstacles it faced, most people have welcomed mobiles with open hands and wallets. ...

The Sydney Morning Herald, April 5

Heated disputes among lawmakers over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The least controversial "controversial" nomination is expected to come before the U.S. Senate next week when Congress comes back from its spring recess.

Richard Cordray, former attorney general for Ohio, has been nominated to become the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new agency designed to look out for consumers and protect them from the kind of shady lending and investment schemes that brought the economy to its knees in 2008.

No one questions Cordray's credentials, character or ability to do the job. He has, in fact, been running the agency on a recess appointment, and won high praise from Democrats and Republicans. ...

The Republicans are demanding that the agency be restructured, replacing the single director with a commission.

That would make the agency weaker and could paralyze it completely if a partisan minority blocked the nomination of a tie-breaking commission member. That was done with the president's nominees for the Labor Relations Board, creating a deadlock that stopped it from functioning.

They are also demanding that the office be funded by Congress and not from a fee collected from the Federal Reserve. Control of those purse strings would also give a minority of lawmakers the ability to shut the bureau down.

The Republicans say that although they support consumer protection, they were excluded from the process when the bill was written and this is the only way they can have meaningful input. But that's not the issue.

What's before them is the Cordray nomination, not the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. ...

Portland (Maine) Press Herald, April 6