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Phones

Retro phones: Thick as a brick

If you're looking for a no-frills mobile phone that you won't lose in your bag, why not get a prehistoric monster such as the Motorola 1000 Autotelephon, and be the envy of all your gadget-loving friends

Fashionable mobile phones fall out of favour in a fortnight: style abides. What could be finer than to swank down the pavement shipping a brick? While today's 3G Web-enabled video phones will be out of date the second the HSDPA hard-disk ultrawideband ones appear, there's nothing time can do to harm the classics from the dawn of the cellular age.

The advantages are many: no need to spend ages finding that perfect retro ringtone, because your phone comes with it preinstalled -- and uninstallable. No multimedia messages, no suspicious security guards eyeing you up in case you're planning some citizen photojournalism, just a telephone encased in a large and heavy mass of metal and plastic that offers you an immediate and satisfying response to anyone attempting a happy slap.

All this is possible because of the modern miracle of backwards compatibility. The GSM networks of 2006 still work with the prehistoric monsters from 1994 -- such as the Motorola International 3200, one of the last upright brick phones. Or skip forward a couple of years to the Motorola StarTAC -- the first digital clamshell phone and the first device that beat Star Trek's prop designers at their own game.

Ah, but where can you get such telephonic treats? Retrobrick, that's where -- and what's more, they also sell the even older, even tastier analogue monsters which really push back to the mythical Age of the Red Braces. Those networks were turned off years ago though, so unless you plan to build a time machine or an illegal pirate analogue network, they're best treated as desk toys.

Don't expect too much from your resurrected historical handsets. The batteries didn't last long when they were new, now they're aged around around a hundred and fifty in dog'n'bone years. But for a few quid, you can own something that cost the same as a decent second hand Beamer back then and will wipe the floor with the latest Samsung in the World Cup Pub Gadget Pose-Off.

As for me, I fancy the Motorola 1000 Autotelephon (pictured), which looks like something Ronald Reagan would use to start a nuclear war and has a transmitter capable of frying the brains of a small child at fifty paces. 

They're out of stock. That's okay. I'll hold. -Rupert Goodwins