It beats the brick, says Rob

01:43, Jan 31 2009
THEN AND NOW: The former National MP who signed off on New Zealand's first cellular network, 84-year-old Rob Talbot, queued for four hours to buy his new iPhone. Inset: Talbot uses an Ericsson 'portable' phone during a trip to Sweden in 1983.

As a senior official in Robert Muldoon's government in the 1980s, Rob Talbot was the man who signed off on New Zealand's first cellular network.

Fast-forward 25 years and Mr Talbot, now a sprightly 84-year-old, was proud to become one of the first people in the world to own the new generation iPhone.

Eyeing up fellow devotees as he queued for four hours outside a Wellington Vodafone store, Mr Talbot conceded he may have been the oldest person in line. But he said he was "definitely the youngest at heart".

A former National MP who served as postmaster-general, Mr Talbot said he still got a kick out of new technology and described his latest acquisition as "the greatest piece of technology yet".

"When I was young, my parents couldn't afford this sort of thing, so I'm making up for it in my time of life, which is very exciting."

The great-grandfather lined up for more than four hours outside Vodafone's Lambton Quay store before the iPhone went on sale at 12.01am yesterday. "I think it's good for people of my vintage to keep right up with the play," he said.


Mr Talbot said his family "probably think I'm crazy" to line up in the cold with other gadget geeks.

"But I'm loving every minute of it. At my age, you've got to make choices - and this is my choice."

He travelled to Sweden in 1983 to enter contract negotiations with Ericsson, which was where he encountered the first mobile phone, affectionately known as "the brick".

He described the era as "the last glory days of Telecom", where he found himself "donkey deep in Telecom changes".

Now he said being the owner of an iPhone was one of the greatest things in his life: "I told my partner, I've done a lot of great things in my life - I've flown in a Concorde, now I've lined up for an iPhone."

He said he grew up in the 1930s with crank-handle phones and party lines, at a time where there was little money to splash out on new technologies.

"My parents felt bad for only giving me an orange one Christmas," he said. "So with my lifestyle and at my age, I can't think of a better thing to have than an iPhone."

Mr Talbot was among hundreds in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, who joined the throngs outside stores. About 300 lined up in Auckland with the first buyer, Jonny Gladwell, having started the queue on Tuesday. In Wellington, 24 people were waiting at midnight and in Christchurch about 50 people were content to queue in the cold.


The Dominion Post