ThoughtPiece: Evolution, Revolution, and the BlackBerry


Progress in any field or business is usually obtained through a series of incremental improvements punctuated by advancements that are far more dramatic and rare in nature. It is a continuum of gradual evolution mixed with a relative few revolutions. Thomas Kuhn in his landmark work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions articulated this concept and gave a name to these types of major disruptive changes: “paradigm shift.”

If I may have the honor of loosely borrowing from the great Thomas Kuhn, let us ask ourselves the question of what have been the major advancements in mass mobile communications? I’ll take a generalized view, more from the standpoint of a consumer, rather than engage in any analysis of engineering developments, and concentrate on the time period going back to around 1990. These are in my opinion the major paradigm shifts in the era of mass mobile communication:

Personal Pagers and Wide Area Paging. It seems so long ago, only because we’ve come so far technologically. Pagers were the first mobile communications devices to gain a mass following. In the early 1990’s pagers were the craze in much the same way that cell phones were to become.

The first paradigm of the mass mobile communications era was simply a proof of its viability; the popularity of pagers demonstrated that there was indeed a very large market for portable communication devices working off of wireless networks. Moreover, consumers would pay for both the device and the continuing service. It’s also interesting to me that mass mobile communications first took off as data centered.