From the August 2009 issue of Entrepreneur

If you often scan through the 300 messages on your BlackBerry and reflect fondly on those days when you used to skip town with nary a phone call or e-mail to worry about, you have quite a few people to blame for your current state of suffering. Here's a look back at the milestones that made you the wired businessperson you are today.

1973:Martin Cooper of Motorola makes the first cell phone call to a competitor at Bell Labs, thereby inventing a new way for entrepreneurs to talk smack to their rivals.


1983: While sitting in a parked car at Soldier Field in Chicago Bell executive Bob Barnett makes the first cellular call over a commercial network to a descendant of Alexander Graham Bell. While definitely a first, this was not the strangest act ever performed in a parked car at Soldier Field.

1987: In one of the cell phone's first starring roles as a business tool, Wall Street stud Gordon Gekko somehow manages to hold a cell phone to his ear despite its tremendous size and the oiliness of his hair.

1989: A long time before anyone heard the word iPod, the folks at Apple (some of whom would later work on the iPod) start working on the Newton platform, described as a handheld computer. In the next decade, the Newton would fall from the tree before it was ripe, but the basic idea landed in the hands of a fellow named Steve Jobs.

1992: The first so-called smartphone, the IBM Simon, is introduced. It contains a calendar and clock, can send faxes and electronic messages and, oh yeah, can make phone calls, all with a nifty stylus. The flat screen presages today's touchscreens; 17 years later, we finally figure out we don't need a stylus and can just use our fingers.

1999: The first BlackBerry appears--as a two-way pager with a flip-screen and keyboard inside its boxy little design. Thousands of thumbs scream in unison, "We now have a purpose that doesn't involve sucking."

2001: Apple launches the iPod. It's not a phone or a PDA or a computer, but it will influence the features and storage capabilities we will come to expect from our cell phones.


2002: What we know as the modern BlackBerry design debuts and attention spans at business meetings will never be the same.


2007: Steve Jobs comes down from the mountain holding an iPhone. The touchscreen, voice calling and internet features, storage capabilities and apps represent the culmination of the cell phone as a multiservice device--and the real beginning of the mobile entrepreneur.

2008: Mobile phone companies, recently obsessed with selling Hannah Montana phone skins to 10-year-olds, realize that small-business owners have more money than some of the 10-year-olds. Small-business-focused service plans and devices arrive en masse.

2009: Nokia opens its Ovi App Store. In addition to the business-focused app stores for the BlackBerry, the iPhone and the Palm Pre, there's now a place to easily buy fresh apps for your Nokia smartphone.