Nokia is 150! From paper and rubber to some of the best phones ever

The Finnish company may be finished with phones, but it has come a long way since starting as a paper mill in 1865.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
3 min read

Remember this? The legendary Nokia 3310. Nokia

Nokia is 150 years old! The Finnish company probably made your first phone, but in its long history it has made everything from paper to rubber boots to gas masks.

The company began when fiercesomely mutton-chopped engineer Fredrik Idestam established a wood pulp mill in southwestern Finland in 1865. Idestam then built a second mill near the town of Nokia, and in subsequent years, his company Nokia Ab combined with other local businesses Finnish Rubber Works Ltd (Suomen Gummitehdas Oy) and Finnish Cable Works Ltd (Suomen Kaapelitehdas Oy). The three merged completely in 1967 to become Nokia Corporation.

Over the years the company we now know as Nokia produced paper products; tyres; rubber boots and other footwear; plastics, aluminum and chemicals; communications cables; televisions; electricity generators; capacitors; gas masks for the army; personal computers -- and of course, mobile phones.

Nokia: A long and innovative history

See all photos

The Nokia we know and love created such landmark phones as the first mass-produced GSM phone, the Nokia 1011, in 1992, and the Nokia 2110 in 1994. The 2110 was the first to treat us to the dulcet tones of the Nokia ringtone -- der der der der, der der der der, der der der der derrrrr. Then there was the 8110 from "The Matrix", the ubiquitous 8210, and the legendary 3210, complete with addictive game Snake.

Unfortunately for the biggest phone manufacturer in the world, it was caught on the hop by the advent of the smartphone age. While the iPhone and Android turned the mobile business upside down Nokia clung to increasingly obsolete operating systems Symbian and MeeGo, only catching up to the smartphone bandwagon in 2011 by adopting Microsoft's Windows Phone. But it was too little too late, and after a belated flirtation with Android on the Nokia X, the phone-fabricating Finns were finished.

Watch this: Could Android have saved Nokia?

In 2014, the company sold its mobile hardware-building Devices and Services business to Microsoft in a multibillion dollar deal. Microsoft at first maintained the Nokia brand name for Windows Phone devices but has now started labelling new phones with its own name, paving the way for the Finnish Nokia to lend its name to consumer hardware once again. The first such device is the Nokia N1 tablet, built by Chinese manufacturer Foxconn and on sale in China and Taiwan.

Now based in Espoo, near Finnish capital Helsinki, Noka is now divided into three businesses. Nokia Networks deals in telecoms infrastructure equipment, such as the kit for 4G. Here licenses map data from clients including automotive companies, as well as offering the Here Maps app for consumers on mobile devices. Nokia Technologies develops and licenses patents.

And Nokia is in the process of buying French telecoms company Alcatel-Lucent in a share deal worth 15.6 billion Euros (£11 billion or $16.6 billion). The deal will see the company streamline their business in fixed and mobile broadband, cloud services and the enterprise market. Nokia said Tuesday that the company expects to close the deal in the first half of 2016, subject to approval by Nokia's shareholders and regulatory approval.