Radio%20Shack%20CT-301%20(3) Cell phones are celebrating their 40th anniversary today. While today there are some 5 billion in use worldwide, in 1987, when I got my first one, a Radio Shack “brick” like the one pictured, there were at best a million in use. My company wouldn’t get me one (I was responsible for corporate communications for McDonald’s), so I bought mine at Radio Shack for $1499, plus a few hundred dollars for accessories, such as a roof-top antenna for my company car. I recall that my wife, Vicki, would not walk with me in downtown Chicago if I was using the cell phone, as she thought it looked pretentious. I do recall using it after a press conference at the Ford Museum in Detroit. All the media people were on land line phones calling in their stories in the press room, and I stepped out into a patio and used my cell. As I looked back into the press room, several reporters were staring out the window in wonder at this revolutionary communications tool. A few years later, all the officers and directors in the communications department had company phones installed. I had been the first with a cell, just as I had become the first company executive outside the information services department to have a personal computer at my desk in 1985. That had required an exemption from the U.S. McDonald’s president. Up to that point, only secretaries were authorized to have personal computers. In the early 90s, I became the first company executive, other than the treasurer, to have a Bloomberg terminal at my desk, allowing 24/7 monitoring of news and market activity. The then-enormous fee for the terminal (around $12G/month) had to be authorized by McDonald’s CEO. Using the Bloomberg tool, we were sometimes able to counter the effect on our stock price of news events perceived as impacting the company from around the world, on a real-time basis, justifying its cost many times over. While I admit I’ve enjoyed the novelty of being an early adopter of new technologies, I’ve found that their strategic use often provided a beneficial business edge.

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