StarTAC Memories

I’m doing something different for this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival. Instead of giving a talk or participating in a panel, I’ll be sharing my mobile phone with anyone who asks. Call it a micro-meetup.

Dust off your memories. I proudly carry the Motorola StarTAC. One day it will be as collectible as a Bulova watch from the 1950s, or the first-generation iPod. I acquired it before September 11th, 2001 and have held onto it all these many days and nights.

Lots of sleeker phones with richer features have come along over the years, but their interfaces always reeked, and I’m particular about interfaces: I like them simple, clear, and functional. I never felt the need to replace my Motorola StarTAC until I saw the iPhone.

After SXSW I will retire my faithful servant and switch to Apple’s new device.

If you see me at SXSW, whip out your digital camera (or camera-phone), and ask to see my Motorola StarTAC. We’ll commemorate the micro-event with a photo, and share the photos in a special Flickr group.

See you in Austin!

Update: they keep dragging me back in

So I’m on a panel after all.

Get Unstuck: Moving From 1.0 to 2.0

Room 18ABCD
Monday, March 12th
10:00 am – 11:00 am

Moderator: Liz Danzico, Daylife

Kristian Bengtsson, Creative Dir, FutureLab
Chris Messina, Co-founder, Citizen Agency
Luke Wroblewski, Principal Designer, Yahoo!
Jeffrey Zeldman, Founder, Happy Cog

[tags]micro-meetups, SXSW, SXSWi, Motorola, StarTAC, mobile, cell, phones, iPhone, Apple, memes, flickr, photos[/tags]

47 thoughts on “StarTAC Memories

  1. The StarTAC was the best phone I ever owned. Bounced off of concrete plenty of times, could hear just fine even when standing out in a hurricane and, as you stated, the intuitive interface (can’t say the same for my current SLVR). I miss it.

  2. Hah, nice. I always thought the old stuff works best. All of the relatively modern phones I had in the last few years stopped working after maybe 1 and a half years. Pity I won’t be at SXSW, I would have loved to participate in your event =)

  3. The iPhone seems to have persuaded a lot of people they need to switch to a new phone! :) I’m not going to be trading in my SLVR until the iPhone is the same thickness! Have fun in Austin.

  4. Holy flash back Batman. When I saw the word “StarTAC” in my RSS reader I had to rub my eyes and look again. If you really want to hearken back to the old days, think Motorola 550 (the “Brick”) or even a bag phone. Booooo! How were you able to still use a StarTAC in this day and age? I thought all service providers stopped providing analog service.

    You’re absolutely right about phone interfaces these days. Motorola’s newest gem, the Razr, is an absolute horror. Good hardware, crappy interface (reminds me of a lot of HP products, e.g., good printer hardware but bad printer interface software). I wonder if the new iPhone really has that great of an interface?

  5. I remember the StarTAC! My dad let me borrow his once to go to a yearbook signing party held by my high school, so I could call when I was ready to be picked up. I remember meeting a lot of people that night who came over to see my “tiny” phone. The people I met made my summer pretty awesome—even though I couldn’t drive yet, many others could. :-)

  6. I remember the StarTAC as a phone that was revolutionary in size and design, but far too expensive for me to own.

    I’ve not used a StarTAC, but have used lots of other Motorola phones during my time as a software developer for a mobile content provider, and I’m surprised that you favour its interface. It must stand out amongst Motorolas – I’ve always found them to be ‘quirky’. I much prefer Nokias, but Sony Ericsson phones are also good to use.

    Apple’s iPhone is a lovely design, but Jobs’ claim that it is five years ahead of any other mobile is simply not true. Yes – the interface and design are truly ground-breaking, but it still comes short in several respects – its lack of 3G support means that it really isn’t five years ahead at all.

  7. It’s interesting that you refer to a Motorola product for it’s good clean interface when all of my (admittedly recent) experience of Motorolas is all about the poor user interface.

    My Motorola V3 RAZR was the most painful year of cell phone usage I’ve yet to experience. It wasn’t just the inconsistencies in the screen UI but also the horrific keypad which made even sending an SMS a chore…

  8. Andy Said: “How marginally interesting!”

    By marginally do you mean in a Seinfeld kinda way? You know… like in one of those almost anyone [who doesn’t live in a cave] can connect kinda ways?

  9. I still have my 2001 StarTac, and although I’ve had a few hundred chances to upgrade for free, I refuse! It hasn’t ever had a problem. A couple years ago I dropped it into a stream. I heard something splash but didn’t know what it I waited a minute until the water cleared, saw it was my phone and fished it out. Once it dried it worked perfectly. Try throwing your new ones in…

  10. Lots of sleeker phones with richer features have come along over the years, but their interfaces always reeked, and I’m particular about interfaces: I like them simple, clear, and functional. I never felt the need to replace my Motorola StarTAC until I saw the iPhone.

    I’m sticking with a Nokia 3210 for the very same reasons – plus, it’s rugged like no other.
    I thought I was sort of a recordman, but you managed to beat me.

  11. I’m rethinking the iPhone purchase because of Cingular. I have nothing against the company — I’ve never used them. But I live in New York City, where Cingular service is inferior to that of Verizon according to everyone I know here who’s used both.

  12. I still own my star tac, but haven’t used it in years. I do use Verizon, it’s coverage here in SouthEast Texas is better than any of the other providers and I need a dependable signal above any bell or whistle :)

  13. Signal strength is very important Jeffrey. I remember joining a UK network, 3, early on, and the signal was terrible. In the centre of Manchester, a call would cut out. I got so frustrated at home when it did it that I threw the phone against the stairs.

    Incidentally, that was a motorola too :)

  14. I admire Motorola for one thing: they’ve tended to give their phones (relatively) pronouncable and memorable names. My LG PM325 — I spent five minutes tracking down that meaningless alphanumeric combo — and I look forward to seeing you.

  15. I got my StarTac in late 2001 and I’m still using it today. I’m on my 2nd battery and things are going just great. I bought a StarCap antenna protection clip soon after I saw other people with broken antenna’s. So how did I choose the StarTac? I watched which sales guys ran out of the building to use their phones and which ones were walking around inside the building with no reception problems. Like everyone has said, great UI and sound. I found out I could get a new phone free from Verizon, so I started looking at the Motorola KRZR and LG 8600 and decided to just keep my StarTac for now. I’ve also got a Palm TX which covers most bells and whistles anyone could need.

  16. I have used a StarTAC for 14 years and just replaced it with a black MOTO Q. I had to wait until someone made a phone better than the StarTAC, and I had to wait for the silver phone craze to blow over.

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  18. Still use my StarTAC. I’m on the second battery, second antenna. Have another spare battery and antenna stashed for when I need them.

    I make and take calls with it. I neither know nor care what else it can do.

  19. Hi, I bought this StarTAC phone at a estate sale. It is so cool. I bought it for 50 cents. I like the size and the interface better then the new phones? Can I get a service plan for it anywhere? I live out in the country, and I heard that analog phones do better out here anyway. I had sprint and was using a expensive Samsung phone , and after 3 mths, the phone quit, and sprint would not give me new one, If I can get this working , to hell with the new ones.

    thanks ,

    some on please let me know soon, dying to use this phone.

  20. I bought this StarTAC phone at a estate sale. It is so cool. I bought it for 50 cents. I like the size and the interface better then the new phones? Can I get a service plan for it anywhere?

    Wow, cool story. Doubt you can get a service plan for it, though. Wireless phone service providers tend to hook you up with a phone; wireless phone retailers can switch you to from the phone that came with your service to a new phone that they’re selling you. I don’t know any business that can connect you to an old mobile phone. But, hey, just because I don’t know of one doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Look around, give it a shot. Good luck and have fun!

  21. I still use a Motorola StarTAC too, I got mine from Verizon back in March 02. I still love it and if I get a new phone I will never be able to activate this one again because of federal laws regarding non-gps phones. Last year i went back to the Verizon store to buy some extra antennas and the girl yelled at me as I was leaving “you can’t keep a startac forever!” and i said “i can try”

  22. I still have my StarTAC and it still works. I wish I had never changed service providers, because now I can’t get my StarTAC activated by anyone. I turn it on from time to time and just admire the simple beauty and functionality of it. And, I ask, why doesn’t Motorola a gps version or better yet a gps implant for existing owners. There has got to be a lot of people who feel like I do about the StarTAC. I still go online periodically and search for a way I can get my StarTAC back into service. That’s how I found this site. All I can do is keep on searching.

  23. The StarTac is the greatest phone I have owned. I bought it in 2000, and still use it. Sure, I can buy a newer, sleeker, fancy phone. But I for one do not need all the crap that comes with it. I don’t need to watch videos, listen to music, etc. I just need a reliable phone. And the StarTac is it. It has never failed me, or dropped a call. I keep looking at new phones, but always go back to my StarTac. Like they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  24. When I invented the StarCap, I didn’t realize so many people would still be using the phone to this day. The StarTac was such a great phone.

  25. I miss my startac. I had it for years but got lured into the thought of having internet on my phone. Now I just wish I had a phone that just worked. My startac was the only phone I never had to have replaced because it stopped working.

  26. I still keep my StarTac for a very novel use: talking! I have a camera, an iPod, a DVD player, etc. I want my phone to to communicate. I have used other people’s modern phones and their sound quality is crap!!! The Tac has been dropped countless times and holds up better than that Energizer rabbit.

    Rich said: How were you able to still use a StarTAC in this day and age? I thought all service providers stopped providing analog service.

    Gerard said: I still love it and if I get a new phone I will never be able to activate this one again because of federal laws regarding non-gps phones.

    I was just in Verizon’s store to replace the antenna (for only the second time in 6 years) and the tech told me I wouldn’t be able to use my StarTac much longer because the analog systems were going to be shut down by law. I ‘splained to her that my beloved phone is a DIGITAL CDMA phone, and I’ll use it until it flat dies. She said nothing about GPS. Oh yeah, I am fine with it not beaming out my whereabouts, not that I’m anywhere illegal. Rich, there are analog-only ‘Tacs (yep, still got one of those) and dual-band digital flavors, too. So, an analog type can still work a little longer. In fact, just today, I was in a very small corner of hell with bad coverage and the Tac went into analog. (Oh, no joy on the antenna. She said they’re not allowed to open up a phone anymore. So, I’m off to scour the web for an antenna …

  27. To Gerard:
    ,Go to “Factory Direct Cellular”,select “Motorola:, then “older models”,then “antennas…then select a “Bullet” style..for $10…much better..won’t break,doesn’t stick up (lowprofille) and they tell you how to install it yourself.(Pull up your existing antennas..see the little slots on either side of the base…turn thern slowly with one or two small screwdrivers(counter-clockwise to unscrew)..throw away(or save) your broken pull-up original StarTAC antenna,screw in the new one.
    You don’t need Verizon to help you. And KEEP your Startac dual-mode Digital on Verizon…it WILL work…and they AIN’T gonna turn it off,no matter any letters or other BS.
    If they give you a hard time,contact a Service Rep. SUPERVISOR and ask how you can make an “EXECUTIVE APPEAL” to NE Cust Service HDQTRS..That will help…tell um you ewanna keep your Star

  28. Just an update… it’s December 31 2008 and I my StarTAC is still activated and used daily as my only cell phone. I think I’m on my last antenna (I stocked up on them the aforementioned time I was in the Verizon store), but I haven’t had one break in 2 years.. miraculously (knock on wood!)… should I need one sure I’ll be able to track one down.

    The only problem to creep up on my StarTAC is the charger connection on the PHONE became intermittent, so I use my uncle’s old StarTAC as a charger and just swap the batteries every morning, my original battery, and the battery that was on his phone and both will last 3 days of me forgetting to swap them, at 7 years old! Most people I know with “modern” phones, their batteries don’t last 7 months!

    I remember last year at New Years wondering if my StarTAC would make it another year, it has…. and now I’m wondering again! 24,045 minutes on the odometer and counting……..

    I stumbled upon my own comment completely accidentally… a common occurrence for me………..

  29. Sometimes people would see my Startac and ask why I have it. “Because it’s good for talking on, and it’s built like a tank.” Other times, people would see my Startac and say how they wish they had kept theirs because every phone they’ve had since has broken. Here and there I’d use other phones, and as far as actually, you know, talking on them, most simply weren’t as good as the Startac.

    Used my friend’s KRZR in the same spot at the same time to the same number on the same network, and his volume kept getting louder and softer with the reception as I turned my head. The Startac had no problem. Did I mention it hasn’t had an antenna on it for years? The stub broke, so I took the whole thing off.

    Alas, after eight or so years and a measly 50,000+ minutes, the microphone went out on it recently. I could still use it with a wired earpiece, which I now like using all the time anyway, but the planets aligned themselves with the no mic, my contract up, and a great price on a new phone, so the Startac is now retired. Of course, I then sold the new phone for a nice profit and am now using an E815, which, while I doubt is as durable as a Startac, is similar in all other respects and has all the bells and whistles of newer phones.

    Rest well, my friend.

  30. today,1-28-09 c’ked w/all known carriers and NO ONE will touch the old STAR TAC
    WARRIOR. They have us over a barrel. sure wish some young/old timer with electronic know-how could come up with a way to by-pass those IDIOTS.

  31. Hello Everyone , To all of you that have Startacs phones i ve still got my old ST7868W and use it for few calls and emergency phone. The place to get this activated is called : . Ifound this site it is based in ohio.

  32. My 1999 Startac is still my daily driver. I am about 200 minutes shy of 50,000. original antenna and original two batteries. Recently a crack in the housing behind the hinge has developed, and now the phones life is limited. Hopefully I can nurse it to the 50k minute mark. This phone was unbeatable in analog. I live in northern maine on canadian border and no one could touch the ‘tac when it came to performance. Aside from the recent crack, the only prob I have had was the ring tone quit 5 years ago. Still works on vibrate though. I have not seen or heard of a current phone that has the robustness and ease of use as the Startac. Maybe you only know these things looking in the rearview mirror. Did anyone think this phone was going to perform the way it did a year or two after it was released?

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