A new exhibit at the Tracy Historical Museum provides a visual look at the development of what has evolved into an integral part of modern-day life — the smartphone.

The exhibit, called “Cell Phones-Smart Phones Evolution of 25 years,” features 14 phones, extending from the early bulky cellphones of past decades to compact present-day smartphones that have a multitude of uses.

Rich Clinton, the Tracy resident who put the exhibit together, became involved with early mobile phones and cellphones a quarter-century ago while serving as communications manager of a major electrical contracting firm in San Jose.

“We had been using pagers and walkie-talkie radios to communicate between the office and crews working projects when Motorola came out with early cellphone models in 1994 that provided us the technology that made better contact possible,” he said.

Smartphone development

Early handheld cellphones were bulky, like this one from Rich Clinton’s exhibit.

He said the first handheld cellphone models were bulky, before electronics were miniaturized and mostly because early batteries were much larger compared to today’s batteries, which resemble a piece of paper compared with what people think of as a battery.

Clinton makes no claim to covering every step of mobile phone development. There have been too many incremental advances made by too many researchers and hardware, software and application producers, in the U.S. and abroad, including Bell Labs, Motorola, Nokia, BlackBerry, Apple and Galaxy, to name just a few.

The introduction of Apple’s iPhone in 2006-07 and the development of Apple iOS and Android mobile operating systems were major breakthroughs.

Clinton stresses, though, that the museum display, based on phones he and his wife, Yvonne, have used over the past 25 years, does provide a reminder of how the handheld phones have changed in appearance and capabilities over the years to become what they are today — mini-computers with cameras and texting too.

The display can now be seen during the Tracy Historical Museum’s regular opening times. The museum, at 1141 Adam St., is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Group tours can be arranged by phoning 832-7278.

Contact Sam Matthews at shm@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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