Saturday, 15 December 2007

1986: The Night The Mobile Phone Arrived In Beckindale...

A freezing cold night in 1986, with snow on the ground, and a figure came running down from The Struggle...

... and into the village of Beckindale.

Young Kathy Bates (Malandra Burrows) emerged from her mother's house to fetch something from the car and heard the sound of metal dustbins clattering and a cat yowling. She paused, alarmed. But everything was still.

At the Woolpack...

... Amos (Ronald Magill) was unhappy. He was suffering from conjunctivitis (or "conjunc-tia-vities" as he called it), hence his pirate-style eye patch...

... and Seth (Stan Richards) never tired of teasing him about it.

Having left the pub, Seth started for home...

... and was surprised when two police cars come roaring into the village, sirens going "nee-norr"...

Seth never liked to mix with the police. This feeling got the better of his curiosity and he continued on home.

Curtains twitched at the Woolpack as the police arrived there. The regulars were told that a dangerous man was on the loose.

Over at the village church, the Reverend Donald Hinton (Hugh Manning), locking up for the night, was startled when Derek Warner (Dennis Blanche) jumped out on him, brandishing a shot gun.

At the vicarage, Derek told Donald Hinton that he was the killer of local Mr Nasty Harry Mowlam (Godfrey James)...

A siege was underway, Derek told the vicar he could leave, but the Rev Hinton, stirred by his plight, decided to stay and talk to him. Outside, the police wanted to phone the vicarage and on came a hand-held mobile phone!

It was a Motorola analogue model - state of the art. The first mobile phone call in England - indeed the whole of Britain, had been made by comedian Ernie Wise at St Katherine's Dock, London, on 1 January 1985. The very first commercially available hand-helds had been unveiled by Motorola in 1983. They were hugely expensive and many of us dismissed them: "Yuppie toys - ridiculous, haven't they ever heard of phone boxes?!!"

So, the first sighting of a hand-held mobile in Emmerdale Farm was quite a milestone in the serial's history!

Back to the storyline, and the assembled police (including village bobby Sergeant MacArthur, played by Ian Dale) awaited developments at the vicarage. Finally, Derek emerged with the vicar, and was hustled away by police officers.
Life in Beckindale soon settled down again, but the glimpse of the mobile phone was an indication that a great technological change was soon to impact on everyday life in the village. And everywhere else!
When you add to that the invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners Lee in 1989, which brought the Internet into all our homes in the 1990s, and the arrival of Sky TV, also in 1989, it seems surprising just how recent the advent of the technology we now take for granted actually was.
Read more about the arrival of mobile phones in the 1980s here.

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