Over the past 150 years, Nokia has evolved from a riverside paper mill in southwestern Finland to a global telecommunications leader connecting over 1.3 billion people. During that time, we’ve made rubber boots and car tires. We’ve generated electricity. We’ve even manufactured TVs. Changing with the times, disrupting the status quo – it’s what we’ve always done. And we fully intend to keep doing it.
The story so far.
In 1865, mining engineer Fredrik Idestam sets up his first wood pulp mill at the Tammerkoski Rapids in Southwestern Finland. A few years later he opens a second mill on the banks of the Nokianvirta river, which inspires him to name his company Nokia Ab in 1871.
How apt that Nokia begins by making paper – one of the most influential communications technologies in history.
The galoshes revolution.
OK, so it’s not exactly a revolution. But in 1898, Eduard Polón founds the Finnish Rubber Works, which later becomes Nokia’s rubber business, making everything from galoshes to tires.
Nokia rubber boots become a bona fide design classic, still on sale to this day – though we no longer make them.
Electronics go boom.
In 1912, Arvid Wickström sets up the Finnish Cable Works, the foundation of Nokia’s cable and electronics business.
By the 1960s, Finnish Cable Works – already working closely with Nokia Ab and the Finnish Rubber Works – starts branching out into electronics. In 1962, it makes its first electronic device in-house: a pulse analyzer for use in nuclear power plants.
In 1963, it starts developing radio telephones for the army and emergency services – Nokia’s first foray into telecommunications. In time, the company’s MikroMikko becomes the best known computer brand in Finland. And by 1987, Nokia is the third largest TV manufacturer in Europe.
Three become one.
Having been jointly owned since 1922, Nokia Ab, Finnish Cable Works and Finnish Rubber Works officially merge in 1967. The new Nokia Corporation has five businesses: rubber, cable, forestry, electronics and power generation. But as the 1980s come into view, it’s an entirely new industry that makes Nokia a household name around the world.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s it seems everything – from Tom Selleck’s mustache to JR Ewing’s list of enemies – is seriously big. And as the mobile communications revolution starts to gather momentum, the early handsets continue the trend.
The new Nokia Corporation is ideally placed to take a pioneering role in this new industry, leading the way with some iconic – and by today’s standards, very large – products.
The mobile era begins.
Nokia sets the ball rolling in 1979, creating radio telephone company Mobira Oy as a joint venture with leading Finnish TV maker Salora. Then in 1981, the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) service, the world’s first international cellular network and the first to allow international roaming, is launched.
The NMT standard catches on fast and the mobile phone industry begins to expand rapidly. In 1982, Nokia introduces the first car phone – the Mobira Senator – to the network. That same year, the Nokia DX200, the company’s first digital telephone switch, goes into operation.
Good enough for Gorbachev.
In 1984, Nokia launches the Mobira Talkman portable car phone. Resembling a military field telephone, it’s a fairly cumbersome piece of kit – but it’s a start.
Then in 1987, Nokia introduces the Mobira Cityman, the first handheld mobile phone for NMT networks. Despite weighing in at 800 grams and a price tag of 24,000 Finnish Marks (around EUR 4,560), it goes on to become a classic. The Cityman even earns a nickname, the “Gorba”, after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is pictured using one to make a call from Helsinki to his communications minister in Moscow.
Over the next decade, millions of consumers worldwide enjoy their very own Gorbachev moment as the mobile revolution takes hold.
In 1987, GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) is adopted as the