Media release

Thirty years since the mobile phone network was turned on in Dubbo

1990 was a significant year in technology.

Tim Berners-Lee created the first web server as the foundation for the World Wide Web; the Hubble Telescope was launched from a Space Shuttle and the first in-car Satellite Navigation System was sold. It was also revealed that Grammy winning pop duo, Milli Vanilli, were lip-syncing in their award-winning songs. In an indication of what was to come, 1990 was the highest selling year ever for Encyclopædia Britannica with 120,000 volumes sold. Only twelve years later it ceased printing.

1990 saw Australians watching Ghost; Home Alone and Pretty Woman and listening to Nothing Compares to you by Sinéad O’Connor; U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer and Vogue by Madonna. Bob Hawke was the Prime Minister and Nick Greiner was Premier of NSW. The minimum wage in NSW was $215 per week with a stamp costing 43 cents and a loaf of bread $1.37.

But, in the local environment, the most significant milestone occurred on 26 July. The Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) was switched on in Dubbo. More commonly referred to as the analogue network, it was the first taste many Australians had of the futuristic world where people would talk on their phone while driving in their car or walking down the street.

Budding entrepreneur, Mathew Dickerson, who had started his first technology business only eight months previously, had the honour of connecting the first mobile phone in Dubbo to the prefixes set aside for the Dubbo region.

“In 1990 the numbering system was different to today. Mobile numbers were only nine digits and all mobiles started with 018. The prefix assigned to numbers from the Dubbo region was 636 so it was initially assumed only 1,000 numbers would be required in the region,” recalled Mr Dickerson.

At the time all landline numbers were only six digits long with an area code of three digits. For example, a Dubbo number may have been (068) 84 6880 instead of the current (02) 6884 6880.

Mr Dickerson continued, “I remember the first number and first phone. It was an NEC P3 handheld mobile and the number was 018 63 62 62. It was actually very rare to sell a handheld mobile with most mobile phones permanently installed in a vehicle or with their own ‘bag’ and carry case. The NEC P3 had a current equivalent cost of over $10,000. In 1990 it was hard to imagine the mobile world we have today.”

Australia now has more mobile devices connected than people.

Contact: Mathew Dickerson 0418 628 439 (0418 MATHEW)

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