I was taking my kids to one of their playdates last Saturday and watching them argue about whose turn it was to use the ‘tab’. It took me down memory lane! I had only one conclusion after that; we have come a long, long way.
I remember when the shoes in town had to be pointed or the square-mouthed ‘kor shoe’ and the only phones in Nigeria were landlines. The thrill of watching my elder sister get ready for a party as her shoes clicked on the tiles; racing to our neighbour’s house with my younger siblings to watch their rich ‘Daddy’ bring out his ‘telephone’ box, his serious-looking glasses and diary turned phonebook. Our neighbour’s ‘Daddy’ as we called him was easily the most influential person, we knew. The shoes were a hit, but the phone stuck with me.
One day we had convinced his youngest kids to bring their father’s diary so we could read and see phone numbers of all the important people in the country. There was Gen. Gowon, Alhaji Okoya, Broda Segun Obasanjo, Uncle Lucky Igbinedion and over twenty pages of important names. We decided to take it even further by dialling the numbers so we could hear them speak. However, whenever we dialled any of these numbers after we put our little fingers in the holes and rolled the big circle as we had seen ‘Daddy’ do a couple of times, there was just one response …. none. We convinced ourselves that the telephone could tell that it was not Daddy using it as it had never failed when he does.
Then I remembered in 2001 when the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) debuted in Nigeria. It was a Christmas holiday and I had just returned home from my JSS 3 first term break when my mum told us that our father had a surprise for us after dinner. That night, my father had double-checked that the door was locked and drew the curtains close. The light was in my mother’s eyes as they twinkled when my father went to his room and came back bringing two boxes with him. Inside one was a Motorola time port ‘handset’; it had a short stubby antenna and the other box contained an MTN SIM Pack. My father made me read out the manual as we tried to figure out where to insert the SIM card and how to select ringtones.
Things have rapidly evolved since then. The phones with radios were introduced, then my all-time favourites, the flip phones; then those that could hold more than just one SIM card, camera phones and smartphones. And the shoe game changed as well! My weaknesses - gorgeous shoes and a phone that can outsmart me. Technology continues evolving and so do our needs. It makes no sense to have to manually transfer data every time we change phones, or to hold multiple phones because we have more than one SIM card. This is why the trial of the embedded SIM technology by MTN Nigeria is a welcome development.
I wonder if my kids will ever understand the struggle of queuing in front of NITEL offices just to make a phone call when they can Facetime their dad from their bedroom? Now, imagine what communication will be like in the days of their own children? What will their shoe-game look like?! After seeing what Gaga spotted a few years ago, anything is possible!