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These days we don't give a second thought to mobile phones, wifi and 24/7 connectivity. Yet back in the 1990s mobile phones were pretty much as rare as rocking horse droppings, and only the very well off had them. I was still a youngster when I made my first trip to Western Australia for the Forest Rally, and my boss (my Dad!) decided that if I was going to be 4000km from home, I should at least be contactable throughout.
The problem was, mobile phones of the day weren't that common, couldn't be bought at every electrical store, and were horrendously expensive.
So it was that we couldn't afford to buy a phone, but hiring one was an option, as you could do in the day! Not only was the phone hire cost (from memory) around $260 for a weekend, I had to drive to Richmond in Melbourne to pick it up, then drive across town to the airport. It added a good hour to my trip, and I had to do it all in reverse when I returned too. But it's fair to say that after picking it up, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.

The classic (but heavy) Motorola 2900 bag phone was cutting edge technology!

The phone I collected was a Motorola 2900, and in its day it was a thing of beauty .... albeit it a heavy one! The bag had a carry strap that made it portable (to a certain extend), but the only thing you could do on it was make phone calls. This was well before social media or the internet! Being in contact with the rest of the world while covering a rally was a novelty like no other, yet mobile coverage in the day was so poor that outside the Perth CBD it was probably as useless as holding a banana to my ear. Nevertheless, it was a moment that showed the way forward.
As the years went on phones got smaller, flip phones became a thing, and it was even cool to have your phone clipped to the belt on your jeans .....
Rally technology has come a long way in 30 years, but those gains have been nothing compared to advancements in the IT world. Who'd have thought that in 2020 you could take a high resolution photo with your phone, while making a call, and then have it uploaded for the world to see, all within a matter of seconds? So next time you take a call from your wristwatch via your cordless AirPods while buried deep in the forest, remember, it wasn't always that easy!

Read more from our Wastegate Chatter series:

https://rallysportmag.com/wastegate-chatter-back-seats-blaney-and-illegal-camping/ https://rallysportmag.com/wastegate-chatter-2-bathurst-brakes-and-mulligan-lectures/  
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Author

Peter Whitten

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media. In 2020 he received a Motorsport Australia 'Media Service Award'.
Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media. In 2020 he received a Motorsport Australia 'Media Service Award'.