Britain's mobile phone users were either very rich or used a mobile in their jobs. When digital arrived in 1992 and two new networks, One2One and Orange, launched their first products a year later, the market opened up to consumers for the first time.
Mobile phone use spread slowly at first, but gathered pace as prices came down. Whilst there were only four networks in the UK, a large number of companies tried their hand at supplying handsets. Phillips, Alcatel, Orbitel, Nortel, NEC, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Maxon, Technophone, Swatch, Siemens, Sony and British Telecom are a few of the brands people will remember. However, three names emerged as market leaders, Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia.
Motorola, the maker of the world's first hand portable, focussed on attention grabbing, high status products. Ericsson, one of the oldest names in the telecommunications industry, reluctantly entered the handset business in the 80s. However, Finnish firm Nokia's commitment to good design with a human face was the winning formula.
If a phone was easy to use, it was popular, but it was also good for the network operator. People were much more likely to use their mobile if it was easy to look up a friend's number, if not, they would use a landline phone. So operators pushed phones that were easy to use. Nokia's commitment to usability gave its phones a significant advantage over competitors.
Finally fun and fashion became the important selling factors. Nokia's team of young designers was able to understand and exploit both the young professional and the teenage market and keep their phones the coolest.
More recently another firm famous for its design aesthetic and the usability of its products, Apple, pushed Nokia off its top spot.
To go back to the beginning, the story of mobile phones in the UK began many years before Ernie Wise made that call.