How Phones Would've Changed History If They Were Invented Sooner

December 19th 2016

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office

Life is so much easier with mobile technology.

As Pew reported in 2012, people see the impact of mobile phones as largely a good thing because they keep us connected to each other and propel productivity.

It’s difficult to imagine such communication and productivity enhancement existing in any other time period than today.

So what would have happened if mobile technology was available decades, centuries, or even millenniums earlier? Things would probably be very different. To investigate, let's explore how various moments in history could have benefited from a little mobile support.

Plato needed a sound recorder.

The classical Greek thinker was known for his political theories and for founding The Academy, which produced esteemed students like Aristotle. However, according to The Cambridge Companion To Plato, some scholars believed the philosopher “refused to write down the most important points of his philosophy,” which were recovered from reports of his oral teachings.

Clearly Plato needed someone who could listen and replay what he was saying: he needed a sound recorder. He could have placed his mobile at the front of the class, chatted away about politics, and logged it all down for future scholars to enjoy. Instead? Plato sparked a deep conversation of how the written word is bad for our memory.

The ancient Romans needed friend finder apps.

When Mount Vesuvius exploded in 79 AD, swallowing nearly 2,000 people and casting them in ash, one would think that their absence would have been noticed immediately. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened since it took over a millennium and a half for their bodies to be discovered. Enter friend finding apps like SquadWatch, which help you track a person’s location via their phone. Imagine if all these people had such mobile enhancement? Surely it wouldn’t have taken over 1,600 years to find them.

The Mongolian Empire would have loved maps.

The 13th century super empire is known for securing one of the most colossal empires in history. While the map of their conquests is huge, they were nomadic, traveling wherever was most suitable for their lifestyle. Yes, we have a very clear idea of how expansive the Mongolians were but such expansionists would have loved tools like mobile maps to log all their moves. Clearly their orienteering and navigation skills led them to conquer so much but the already potent after effects of their conquests would have resonated even more.

Shakespeare would have loved texting, k?

One of the greatest writers would have loved infusing his works with texting conversations since his stories were all about fate despite action. Imagine if Friar Laurence tried to text Romeo that Juliet wasn’t dead but he didn't have a signal? Imagine if Hamlet’s uncle Claudius accidentally texted plans to kill Hamlet to his mother, Gertrude? Imagine if Iago used text messages to influence the lives of Othello and Desdamona? The options are endless and, surely, Shakespeare would have come up with some inventive scenarios.

Napoleon really, really, really could have used a weather app.

The fall of the great French emperor was caused by a lot of things but one of the biggest factors was his messy invasion of Russia. Everything that could have gone wrong did: the timing was off, there weren’t enough rations, and Winter came early. This last sounds so trivial, but Winter was devastating for an unprepared military who couldn't deal with the weather dropping from temperate fall weather to negative twenty-two in weeks.

What did Napoleon need? A weather app, like MSN Weather, instead of assuming the weather was going to be typical for the season. Perhaps with some app assistance the great leader’s empire wouldn’t have gone cold...

Imagine if “Fireside Chats” were “Fireside Chatbots.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was known for his Fireside Chats, radio broadcasts that allowed him to address the American public in a private manner. The Chats updated Americans on what the government was doing and its informative, conversational nature created a dialogue between the people and the president. To enhance President Roosevelt’s personal messaging, imagine if he turned to chatbot technology to share updates and actually converse with citizens. Sure, it’s a potential Orwellian reality but the nature of the one-on-one chatting seems very much like the kernel of what chatbots are doing for large group communication.

You can do even more than you might think with Office 365, and we’re making it better all the time. Try it for free.