Twenty years ago today, I pulled an object the size of a brick from my coat pocket, punched in ten numbers, and told my wife’s parents that, as of 15 minutes earlier, they were grandparents. (Happy birthday, Jill.) The nurses in the room giggled, not at the usual nervous exhilaration of the first-time daddy, but at the preposterous device I was holding to my ear. It was one of the first truly portable Motorola cellphones, and they were very rare objects indeed. Critics and skeptics wondered at the foolishness of technophiles who paid good money for such an absurd luxury, of dubious reliability and even more questionable utility, when pay phones abounded and blackberries were for breakfast cereal or dessert.
No one then could have imagined for a second that this silly machine, a scant 20 years latter, would be more powerful than armies, and would bring down dictatorships. In only 20 years. So much for predicting the future.