Mobile phone fan turns personal collection of 2,000 devices into virtual museum

A man who started collecting mobile phones more than two decades ago is opening his own virtual museum to celebrate the evolution of his favourite device. 

 

Ben Wood started working at Vodafone fresh out of university in 1994 and was shocked to see a couple of employees chucking old transportable phones with cells the size of car batteries into a skip.

“’You can’t throw them away, they’re such an important part of history!’” he recalled telling them, rescuing the phones and taking them home to start what would become his collection. 

Mr Wood, now a mobile analyst at research firm CCS Insight, went on to own more than 2,000 handsets from 200 different brands.

They include the world’s first flip phone, the Motorola StarTAC; the Motorola 8000X DynatTAC that Michael Douglas used in 1987’s Wall Street; and the iconic devices that appeared in 1999’s The Matrix and modern James Bond films.  

Is he phoning it in?

Now with the assistance of his old employer Vodafone, Mr Wood’s collection has been submitted to the Charity Commission for full charity status and will go on virtual display as the online Mobile Phone Museum from November. 

“We want to safeguard this enormously important piece of technology and to educate people about the stories behind the devices,” Mr Wood told i

© Provided by The i Mr Wood’s favourite is the Nokia 2210 (Photo: Mobile Phone Museum)

“It’s an amazing technology story that should be celebrated, and before the pandemic we were able to visit primary schools to explain to children what it used to be like trying to call someone – they can’t get their heads around the concept of something like a clip-on camera for a phone,” he laughs. 

Hanging on the telephone

Mr Wood – whose favourite phone is the Nokia 2210 – hopes to turn the collection into a pop-up exhibition at a major venue like Design Museum London or the V&A in 2025 to mark 40 years of mobile phones in the UK. 

“The reason why phones resonate with us so much is because everyone has a very personal memory associated with a phone. When people look through the collection, they’ll tell me, ‘My dad used to have this!’ or ‘Oh wow, I remember my friend using that,’” he said. 

“They’ve changed so much over the years, and I think there’s an amazing emotional engagement with phones as a piece of technology. We can’t wait to celebrate that.”

The Mobile Phone Museum will be live at mobilephonemuseum.com from November

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