One of the attractions at the gdgt live event in Seattle tomorrow night (register here) will be AT&T’s Revolve Project — a unique effort to document and display the history of mobile technology, using the dustydevices that many of us have hidden away in our garages or desk drawers.

We connected with Seth Bloom of AT&T’s blogger relations team to learn more.

What was the inspiration for the Revolve project, when did it start, and what’s the purpose? We have been attending tech blogs’ reader meetup events for a while – and we often bring along a ton of mobile devices…really old ones from our archives as well as phones from the last 10  or so years …. And we place those alongside the current lineup of smartphones and mobile tech.  At each event, attendees would see the array of phones and without prompting share stories about memorable devices they’d owned – from their first cell phone to their first color screen to their first device with email.  There was so much for the handsets themselves…but also what people had been through with those devices.  At the same time, it was pretty stunning how much has changed in such a short time.

Our goal is to bring gadget nerds from around the country together to together create a video that shows the evolution of mobile handsets — and at the same time weaves in the deep connections we’ve built to our wireless technology over the same period of time.

What happens when someone brings in a phone — what do you do with it, and what kinds of questions do you ask? We talk with folks about why they’ve held onto a particular device — the stories are pretty amazing.  We encourage people to share as much as they can about the device, including why they deem it important or historic. It could be the first phone with a color screen or their first phone with texting capabilities. Or it just made them feel so cool.

We take each device and put it into a specially designed video box where it’s filmed and digitized from all angles.

Many attendees want to keep their devices, but we do provide an option for those who don’t. At each event, we have donation boxes for an organization we’ve partnered with for years called Cell Phones for Soldiers, which takes old phones and recycles them…then uses the proceeds to purchase and distribute phone cards for the military.

What will be the end result of the project, and when will that happen? First of all, participants will get a high-res, 360 degree video of their phone – a great way to capture that meaningful phone in perpetuity.  But then we’ll use the footage gathered at gdgt live events across the country to create a video that shows the evolution of mobile technology – starting with a suitcase-sized phone through a bag phone and the “Zack Morris” phone … through the future. We’re starting to think about exactly how to premiere the video now….it’ll likely be towards the end of the year, possibly at the final gdgt live event of 2011 in San Francisco this December.

So it’s not just AT&T phones you’re asking people to bring? Yes, we’re filming any and all devices, as long as they’re not the device you’re currently carrying in your pocket.

What’s the most obscure or unusual phone someone has brought in so far? We haven’t gotten many obscure phones yet, though we’ve filmed the ones from our archives which are (literally) one-of-a-kind.  It’s pretty amazing how every time a phone comes out of someone’s bag it’s immediately recognizable: You remember someone who had that device…or you remember coveting it.  Seattle is such a great mobile culture – so we’re looking forward to see what turns up on Friday.


The all-ages gdgt event is free to the public, starting at 7 p.m. at the Showbox SoDo south of downtown Seattle. Register here in advance.

GeekWire is a media sponsor of gdgt live, and we’ll have our own booth featuring competitive play in a classic arcade game — which based on the voting as of this moment looks like it will be Galaga.

Looking forward to seeing everyone there Friday night!

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