Today, Nokia is the biggest mobile phone manufacturer in the world. But back when the Nokia Company was founded, all they made was paper.
The Nokia company was started in 1871, when Finnish engineer and paper mill owner Fredrik Idestam decided to go into partnership with his friend, the Finnish statesman Leo Mechelin. The new company was named after the town of Nokia, the site of one of Idestams paper mills. They expanded into electricity generation in 1902, which quickly overtook paper as the core business.
The first world war crippled the Nokia finances, and the firm had to be rescued by a firm known as Finnish Rubber Works, who produced galoshes and other rubber products. In 1922, the company also bought Finnish Cable Works, makers of telephone, telegraph, and electricity cables, although the three firms remained separate despite their shared ownership. In 1967, the three firms merged to form the Nokia Corporation. Between 1967 and 1990, the Nokia Corporation were involved, through their various divisions, in making a wide variety of products, including Wellington boots, automobile tyres, paper products, computers, TVs, capacitors and communications cables.
However, they abandoned all their other interests in the 1990s to concentrate solely on mobile and land based telecommunications, a market that was on the cusp of explosive growth.
Nokias first electronic device was a pulse analyser for nuclear power plants. They pioneered VHF radio, in conjunction with a company called Salora Oy, and later gave Finland its first mobile phone network. The ARP radio telephone network was one of the first of its kind in the world, and was certainly the most successful of any of the early mobile networks.
In the late 70s, Nokia pioneered the worlds first digital telecommunications switch, the DX200. In 1984 they bought out Salora Oy and formed a new mobile telecoms division, entitled Nokia-Mobira Oy, releasing their first product that same year, the Mobira Talkman, which was a transportable phone around the size of a briefcase that could be charged from a car cigarette lighter socket.
Three years later, they brought out one of the first hand held mobile telephones, the Mobira Cityman 900, which was a massive seller despite weighing a ton and costing a fortune. It earned the nickname The Gorba when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was seen in a news broadcast phoning his communications minister in Moscow from Helsinki on one of the units.
In 1989, Nokia-Mobira Oy changed their name to Nokia Mobile Phones, and soon became the most profitable arm of the whole corporation, which convinced them to ditch all their other interests in order to throw all their weight behind this lucrative new venture. It was a gamble that paid off, as they are now the biggest manufacturer of mobile phones in the world.