Many things in our lives which we now see as a utility, started off as a luxury.
In the early nineties, for instance, mobile phones were considered a work device. You would only have one if your employer paid for one for you, and you’d only get one if it was absolutely essential. The first mobile phones cost over £8,000 in today’s money.
Another example could be heated seats in cars. If your rear end was toasty warm in 1966, then you could only have been driving a Cadillac. It was the only car in the world to have heated seats at that time. It was a luxury car, with many high end features. The most popular car in the UK at the time was the Ford Cortina. There is a huge difference between the Cadillac and the Cortina. One is a high end, very expensive luxury item, and the other is more accessible. The Caddy was roughly ten times the price. However, if you absolutely had to have an electrically warmed bottom then you had little option.
Now we expect luxury in aspects of our lives. All of us. Luxury and refinement are no longer the preserve of the very wealthy. They are the demands of us all.
Mass production and improving production techniques bring costs down, and what was once expensive becomes more accessible. As the new technology becomes more accessible, our expectations shift. End users will slowly experience a shift in values, as different things become the norm.
This is why this article is titled ‘From Utility to Luxury, and Back to Utility Again’. Progress allows us to advance our technology, and this advancement becomes normalised. As society adjusts to the technological change, so what was a luxury becomes a utility.
The example of the Heated Seats given above shows the process. At the start, all cars had no heated seats. One company created the technology, and the option of Heated Seats became possible, although rightly seen as Luxury. Move forward in time, and what was a luxury is now pretty much essential. If not heated seats, then heated windscreen, or sat-nav. Standard equipment for a car in 2020 would have been literally unbelievable to someone stepping out of the ’66 Cadillac.
So it is for all technologies. They start off small, only affecting a few people. But as it becomes desirable, and finally expected, so it enters into the mainstream. Not many people, after having bought a new car, would boast about its heated seats. But, in 1966, you would literally be the talk of the town.
So it is with telecoms. Our relationship with phones has developed as the technology has changed. At the very start, a phone was a Utility. In fact, all communications were a utility. If you had to write out your message in very small writing, roll the message into a tube, and attach it to a trained pigeon, then you would probably be very careful about what you wrote as well. The whole process was so long and involved you would never entertain the idea unless the message was vital. Likewise with smoke signals, hill-top beacons and semaphore.
With the birth of the telegraph our attitude to communications changed. Complicated messages could now be sent quickly, reliably and comprehensibly.
The telephone changed things further. Not only could we send and understand complicated sentences, but we could also hear the other person’s voice. You could interrupt and ask for clarification, instead of waiting for the whole message to read out on ticker tape and then sending a telegraph back.
The very first phones were sold purely as a utility. Adverts sold the advantages of a practical communications device, and the ability it gave to reach other phone devices to conduct business.
In 2020, we use our phones for much more than essential communication. We talk to friends and relatives. catch up on gossip. Share holiday plans, and sometimes just call to chat.
Connecting phones to the internet gave even more options. You can play games, email, search for things, and even watch films.
We’ve become so used to having so many communication channels in our pockets that it is now far from a luxury! Being deprived of their phone can cause some people to break into a sweat (literally).
From a business point of view, not having phones would be like not having a front door. It is a main method of communication for new and existing customers. Cutting your phone line with scissors would be like bricking up the door of a shop.
Phones are essential to business and commerce. It is one of the main avenues of communication, and can be customised to individual company requirements.
Find out how your telecoms could be working better for you
Chat about anything in this blog (over a phone call, obviously).