Review: Stephen Fry on the Phone

Stphen Fry on the Phone“I am the kind of tragic (and inexcusably proudly tragic) figure who just has to have the first version of every toy technology can devise.”

A self-confessed technology junkie and ‘early adopter’, Fry is the front-man for this gentle history of the mobile phone for the general consumption of the afternoon audience, in what is now the “narrative history” slot.

To help soften the blow of Radio 4’s recent schedule changes, the BBC evidently decided that a bit of Fry in the afternoon is a good thing. The opening programme outlined the technical challenges in setting up mobile networks, our heroes the American engineers who devised the cellular transmission system in the 1960s. Skirting the idiot’s guide to radio spectrum, much of the show concerned the intervention of the US telecoms companies spouting “it’s wasteful and it’ll never catch on warnings” to defend their existing radio business from mobile telephony.

With each segment topped-and-tailed with Fry’s dry English delivery and sardonic humour, this is quintessentially Radio 4 ‘edutainment’ broadcasting. AJS

The remaining four programmes of Stephen Fry on the Phone:

  • 22 Nov 2011 13:45 BBC Radio 4
    From Car Phone to Executive Brick: 2/5. How Britain became a world leader in mobile phone technology in the eighties.
  • 23 Nov 2011 13:45 BBC Radio 4
    The Accidental Discovery of Text
    : 3/5. How texting triumphed unexpectedly when paging was all the rage.
  • 24 Nov 2011 13:45 BBC Radio 4
    Shrinking the Handset
    : 4/5. The story of the engineers who turned mobile phones from hefty bricks into fashion items.

iPlayer/Listen again:


Audio CD available for purchase on Amazon:

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