McLuhan’s Law Applied to OG/Zero Generation and 3-4G/Third & Fourth Generation Mobile Phones




Instant communication

Ubiquitous mobile Network Access


Telegraphy: “write at a distance”



Verbal communication/expression of “affection”

Paying attention

Access information in real-time


Device will be naturally in sync with our biological and emotional impulses

The early mobile phones are often referred to as 0G mobile phones, or Zero Generation mobile phones. This technology evolved into 1G or First Generation and 3G and 4G mobile technology telephones. The very first mobile phones were two-way radios that allowed people such as soldiers and taxi drivers to communicate. Instead of relying on base stations with separate cells, the first mobile phone networks involved one very powerful base station covering a much wider area (Leggett, 2015).


Communication at distance. Telegraphy, instant written communication represented by dots and codes became instant verbal and voice communication when the mobile phone was invented. The size and weight of mobile devices communication compares to the early radios and telegraphs devices were considerably reduced. The advent of mobile phones increases ubiquitous and mobile network access. The mobile network access was based on Radio Access Networks allowing the user to use the Radio Access Technology beyond their cells or networks. It allows usage of the position of Mobile Terminals (MTs). It also predicts and picks locations within heterogeneous network infrastructures. It set the platform for combining wireless communications and navigation for future mobile communication systems, Preethi (2011).


The wireless radio transmissions obsolesced the telegraph; a communication technology that uses a device and electricity and magnets to instantly “write at a distance” without a physical object transporting the message. The introduction of radio in the early 1900s combine both technologies, radio and telegraphy, to create radiotelegraphy and other forms of wireless and mobile communication systems. The development of this technology, the radiotelegraphy, in the era of the Internet creates natural interfaces such as electronic mail and SMS text messaging. In sum, this technology obsolesces face-to-face talk, (History of Radio: The FCC Kids Zone).


It retrieves verbal communication and expression of “affection”, share humor, argue viewpoints, and strengthen relationships. It retrieves instant coordination of activities; coordination of activities or to simply touch base. Through the mobile phones one pay attention to the other person and stay connected to that individual, at least, during the time of their communication. Also it retrieves information access in real-time which was lost with the telegraph.


The regular cell phones disappeared entirely. Years later, a new generation of phones called smartphones replaced the appellation. As OG phones could not escape the Four Laws of McLuhan, they became obsolesced, smartphone technology would not do it. I believe smartphones of the future will take different forms, and their functions will differ from what we know today. Perhaps, they will be adapted to our emotional senses. I believe in the future, cell phones will become even more naturally in sync with our biological and emotional impulses and such as thought would process them.




Real-time remote collaboration and communication

Synchronize remote activities

Touch and physicality


Input devices: keyboard and wired/wireless mouse, trackpads


Replication of movements


Interpersonal communication


Electroencephalographic echoes of neural activity—Think what you want your device to do and it will happen

Smartphone/Touch screen is a technology widely used nowadays. Although PCs are being still used, the smartphone/touch screen technology, is growing at a rapid rate and is becoming ubiquitous. Its improving capabilities and practicalities are positioning it as the technology of choice in everyday life, business, and education. Within the classroom context, this technology is emerging and can bring tremendous benefits to teachers and students particularly to autistic students who have difficulty learning by interpersonal interactions and looking at a horizontal monitor or screen—looking up or eye contact is one of the autistic impairments. The smartphone can bring countless benefits to the education of these students. This project analyzes how the smartphone technology has evolved from PC to Smartphone. In the process, we will examine smartphone technology in the light of the four laws developed by Marshall and Eric McLuhan (1992) as Thornburg (2013) introduced to us. We will consider what it enhances, obsolesces, retrieves, and reverses in the education of students living with autism disorder condition.


Smartphone/Touch or touch screen technology enhances Tangible User Interfaces (TUI) technology. TUI began with Synchronized Distributed Physical Objects (SDPO). It is a technology which creates the illusion of a shared physical object across distance. The SDPO approach enables the extension of TUI into the space of distributed Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CRSW). This approach enhances real-time remote collaboration and communication, based on the idea of Tangible Interfaces, which places a greater emphasis on touch and physicality to distributed multi-user interactions (Brave, 1998). This approach has significant educational advantages for students who live with autism disorder conditions. This population of learners better collaborate in virtual environments because it allows them to synchronize remote activities even though they operate in different physical environments. Another benefit of TUI for autistic students is that it restricts opportunities for isolation and reflects back movements at the user. Also, cooperative actions occur when autistic children use this type of technology compare to passive technology (Farr, 2009). In sum, the external representation of objects via tangibles can help autistic students to learn to read other people’s actions and intentions and can give them a chance to think and talk through smartphone/touch screen based on this technology (TUI.).


Tangible User Interfaces (TUI) obsolesces Graphic User Interfaces (GUI) technologies. An example of how GUI functions is the clicking of the mouse and the resulting digital representation on the monitor. This mechanism is indirect. More precisely, the user makes a sort of movement, but the monitor does not accurately represent the object and the movement. Traditional PCs including input devices, such as a keyboard and wired/wireless mouse, trackpads, have controlled digital spaces on output spaces. TUI technologies blurred the traditional distinction between physical and digital components. The gap is bridged between cyberspace and the physical spaces as physical representations of numerical values and operations (Ulmer, Ishui, 2000). This is of great utility for autistic students in terms of using physical objects and words.


Before modern educational systems including lecturing, reading, and writing, apprenticeship was the model widely used centuries ago. In the apprenticeship model, learners replicate their Master’s movements. Technology based on movement, such as smartphones, create simulations. Brave (1998) states in his thesis for the degree of Master of Science in Media Arts and Sciences that “Touch is a fundamental aspect of interpersonal communication. “Whether a greeting handshake, an encouraging pat on the back, or a comforting hug, physical contact is a basic means through which people achieve a sense of connection, indicate intention, and express emotion” Smartphone/touch screen retrieves the sense of interpersonal communication lost in education.


We have the impression that there won’t be anything that will surpass the touched or gesture-based technology. McLuhan’s Four Laws of media reminds us that every new development will become obsolete. So, what is it that might replace touch or gesture-based or natural language interfaces technology? We already have voice-recognition, motion-sensing, devices controlled by thoughts. The keyboard, mouse, touch screens, voice and motion sensing, are slipping into the darkness of the pass. The future belongs to thinking about what you want your device to do. Brain–Computer Interface (BCI) has already some products such as headsets, which pick up electroencephalographic echoes of neural activity through the skull. What’s a fascinating foretaste of emerging technology to come, when we will not wear headsets, but when we think things would happen! This technology will transform how humankind acquires knowledge.


Brave, B. B. (1998). Tangible Interfaces for Remote Communication and Collaboration. (Master Thesis). Retrieved December 30, 2015, from

Farr, W. Yuil. N. & Raffle, H. (2009). Collaborative Benefits of a Tangible Interface for autistic children. Boston: MA, USA

FCC Kids Zone – History of Radio. Retrieved January 2, 2016, from

Leggett J. (2015). History of mobile phones. What was the first mobile phone?  Retrieved January 2, 2016, from

McLuhan, Marshal, & McLuhan, Eric (1992). Laws of Media: The New Science. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press

Odom, D. (2015). Teaching with Smartphones in the Higher Education Classroom. Retrieved December 27, 2015, from

Photographic History of Mobile Telecommunications. Retrieved December 1, 2016, from,29307,1636836,00.html

Pogue, D. (2012). Six Electronic Devices You Can Control with Your Thoughts. From toys to mind monitoring, …Retrieved December 30, 2015, from

Preethi J. (2011). An Overview on Radio Access Technology (RAT) Selection Algorithms for Heterogeneous Wireless Networks. International Journal of Computer Science & Information Security, 9(19475500), 100-105. Retrieved January 2, 2016, from

Thornburg, D. (2013e). Emerging technologies and McLuhan’s laws of media. Lake Barrington, IL: Thornburg Center for Space Exploration.

Ulmer, B. & Ishii, H. (200). Emerging Frameworks for Tangible User Interface. IBM Systems Journal, 39, No.3 & 4, 995-931




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