Features | 07 Nov 2023

“Going Mobile” exhibition – celebrating the journey of the mobile phone

The small Cornish coastal village of Porthcurno plays an important role in the history of global telecommunications.

Its remote beach saw the arrival of the first UK undersea telegraph cable in 1870 which connected the UK to India and other parts of the British Empire. Subsequent generations of those cables have carried telephone, then data communications traffic to connect the UK to the rest of the world.

The village was also the location of a training college for British telecommunications company, Cable & Wireless, with student engineers coming from across the world to learn cable and satellite communication.

Fast forward over 150 years from arrival of the first cable and Porthcurno remains a showcase for communications through PK Porthcurno Museum of Global Communication, sitting on the site of part of the old training college and just up from the beach where the cable arrived. This month the museum opened a year-long exhibition on the 40-year history of the mobile phone.

The “Going Mobile” exhibition is sponsored by Vodafone UK and explores the extraordinary journey from exclusive status symbol to the every-day mini-computer of today. The exhibition traces the development of modern mobile communication and its roots in cable technology. It aims to educate on how a mobile phone call works and the infrastructure required.

Part of the exhibition is dedicated to over seventy phones and objects selected from Mobile Phone Museum, who hold an extraordinary collection of mobile phones – ranging from the earliest ‘brick’ devices of the 1980s, to the latest smartphones. It’s the first time that the phones have been on public display as a collection. Ben Wood, who is the Founder of Mobile Phone Museum, believes it’s an important exhibition.

“No other invention in recent memory has shaped how we live more fundamentally than the mobile phone. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this device, which has become the most prolific consumer electronics product on the planet.”

Bringing the exhibition to life has been the task of PK Porthcurno CEO Julia Twomlow. “Looking back at the history and rapid evolution of mobile technology was thought-provoking for all of us. Today, they are so much part of our lives that it’s hard to remember a time when we were without them. We had great fun developing this exhibition, working with the fabulous collection which the Mobile Phone Museum has put together in the last few years. I think most of us can remember our first or favourite mobile phone – it’s a surprisingly personal thing.”

For Ker Anderson, Head of Detailed Planning and Optimisation at Vodafone UK, sponsoring the exhibition felt like the right thing to do. “The history of Porthcurno is fascinating and although Vodafone are synonymous with mobile phones, it’s worth remembering that our network infrastructure is hugely reliant on fibre cables – similar to the ones coming up the beach at Porthcurno. The Mobile Phone Museum hold a rich and diverse range of devices from across the years so it was fantastic to be able to bring the two organisations together.”

“We’re proud of the fact that Vodafone is a great British success story. In just a few decades, we’ve grown from a small company in the UK to one of the world’s leading technology communications companies. This exhibition is a great opportunity for us to remember how far we’ve come in such a short space of time and to celebrate that journey.”

“Going Mobile” exhibition is showing at PK Porthcurno  Museum of Global Communications until October 2024.

Stay up-to-date with the very latest news from Vodafone by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn and signing up for News Centre website notifications.