Back to the Future: The Journey of the Cityman

It’s the 1980s, and the race is on.

Boris Becker aims to become the youngest player to win Wimbledon.

Apple and Microsoft clash over ownership of the personal computer market.

Marty McFly races to get back to 1985 to avoid being trapped in 1955 forever.

And Nokia and Ericsson join Motorola, NEC, Philips and others in the race to dominate the brave new world of mobile phones.

For me, in the 1980s I believed that I was the epitome of the high flying business man – in my brand new company car with ELECTRIC windows; such a new and wonderful status symbol that my fiancé (now wife) insisted on making the window on her side go up and down at every traffic light we come to, just to tease other drivers. Sad, but true, and of course something I would never tease her about now…

Crucially, though, next to me and bolted firmly to the central console, was a true sign that I had the ultimate badge of success and proof that I was a man of the very latest technology…a car phone.

It wasn’t exactly a mobile phone, but a brick of a Motorola 4500XX, resting in its massive cradle with its cord connected to a huge black box that reduces my wife’s legroom to worse than that of an EasyJet flight. The 4500XX (the superior to its key rival the 1987 Nokia Cityman 1320) was the pride of all 80s yuppies everywhere.

At the time, it was the ultimate in new technology, worth over three grand (nearer seven grand in today’s money) – a phone in a car, with bright red LED (LCD was still on the drawing board) reminiscent of that other fabulous new technology of the day – the pocket calculator.

Amazing! I am the Cityman, I am the Talkman, and I am as cool and footloose as Kevin Bacon himself. And Swayze.

I’ve since deflated my head a tad…

Today, the Cityman and the Talkman are somewhat dated, rather quaint terms. As entrenched in the 1980s as drainpipe jeans, mullet haircuts and Cheggers plays pop.

Or are they?

Much like those jeans, haircuts and sadly, Cheggers too, have made their own comebacks with a modern twist, so too now have the Cityman and the Talkman.

Let’s jump ahead by 26 years…

The news is now all about Windows 10, mobility, and two brand new flagship phones announced by Microsoft, internally codenamed…the Cityman and the Talkman.

Microsoft aren’t likely to keep the names Cityman and Talkman when they are released, and will probably opt instead for the more market ready names of the Lumia 940/950 and Lumia 940 XL/950XL respectively. AT&T is rumored to begin selling both devices from November 1st, with T-Mobile to follow shortly thereafter. We might find out more about them at Microsoft’s devices event on the 7th October.

Sticking with the codenames for now, the Talkman is a smart phone with a 5.2-inch screen and a 20 MP PureView camera, shown here, and Cityman is the phablet, with a 5.7-inch screen and a 20 MP PureView camera with triple flash.

It seems like Microsoft are attempting to revitalize some of that 80’s cool (ironically the last time they were actually seen as ‘cool’ themselves). Perhaps this is the reason for the internal codenames? They want to be a status symbol again, as I naively assumed I was when I had one in the 80s?

If that’s the case, it’s worked again – 26 years later (when will I learn? :)) and I will soon feel the need to upgrade my currently six month old and therefore horrendously out of date Lumia, and once again become the true Cityman and Talkman, only this time independent of my vehicle and at a mere fraction of a seven grand price tag.  Talk about going Back to the Future…

This is only the beginning of just how far we have come in mobile phone technology. Who would have thought in the 1980s that we would be making the gates at the tube station “open sesame” at the mere press of a thumb on the fingerprint reader of our phone, and be receiving e-tickets for our next flight whilst ordering a frappe at Starbucks all in the same trip?

The names may be the same, but today’s Cityman and Talkman have about as much in common with their predecessors a Lear Jet does to the Kitty Hawk.  

Windows 10 mobile really is the Brave New World to all who embrace it, and so embrace it we must.