It’s difficult to imagine a world without cell phones today. We use them to send messages, check email, even take pictures and play games. However, the concept of making wireless calls started more than a century ago.
History tells us that Alexander Graham Bell is the one that invented the wired-telephone in 1876 and several decades later, the first call via radio waves was made. This paved the way for the radio and walkie-talkies, which was created in the 1940s.
As the years went on, walkie-talkies became more impractical, but the technology for wireless phones progressed.
With the technology finally in place in the 1960s, so did the opportunity to create the first cell phone. The work to create the technology was done by engineers at Bell Technologies, but the first wireless, mobile phone was created by a competing engineer.
The Man Behind It All
Dr. Martin Cooper, An American engineer was the great inventor credited with creating the first cell phone.
He joined the telephone company Motorola as a senior engineer in the 1950s and created innovative technology like the handheld police radio.
He then led the Motorola communications division where he conceptualized the mobile phone. His team was able to create the first mobile phone prototype in 1973. He’s also credited with making the first ever mobile call.
Let’s take a look at how this unfolded.
Early Concepts – The Car Phone
Before the mobile cell phone, as we know it, there have been mobile phones since the 1930s. These were 40-pound behemoths that required a lot of battery power, with little talk time. As they were impractical to carry around they were installed in cars.
These only worked in certain reception areas and with few available lines, were constantly busy. In the 1960s, engineers at Bell Labs – a part of AT&T – had finally created the wireless technology needed to accelerate the mobile phone.
A race between Motorola and Bell Labs
AT&T made a request for installing wireless communications through the FCC in the 1960s. This meant that making mobile phones available to mass market would soon be possible. The chief engineer at Bell Labs, namely Dr. Joel S. Engel, was responsible for creating the product that will work on their technology, however, Dr. Cooper and his team swooped in.
The First Mobile Phone Is Created
Motorola acted quickly and invested tens of millions into Dr. Cooper and his team to create the first mobile phone. They got it done.
In 1973, Cooper created the first working prototype. It was called the Motorola DynaTAC, and was 10 inches long and weighed almost three pounds. It also had a small LCD screen. The mobile phone had a battery life of twenty minutes and required hours of charging.
The First Call is Made
On April 3rd, 1973, the first public call on a cell phone is made by Dr. Cooper. At a press conference in New York, he was able to call the head engineer at Bell Labs, Dr. Engel.
Connecting to a base station in New York, he was able to demonstrate the device to the press, passersby, and walked around while using the device.
Cell Phones go to Market
It will take a further ten years of work on the product before the first Motorola cell phones were available in 1983. Dr. Cooper and his team were able to reduce the size of the phone to about 30 ounces.
The DynaTAC cost a whopping $3500 dollars. It became fondly known as the “brick” phone or “shoe” phone. It was a resounding success and considered a luxury item for the rich.
Cell Phone Today
More than 40 years after the first mobile call, the mobile phone has reduced significantly in size, accessibility, and cost.
The technology has evolved from the first generation (1G) to fourth (4G), and fifth generation (5G) which encompasses voice, text and high-speed data wirelessly. This has made the ability to transfer voice, video, files, and other media.
The mobile phone has come a long way from its three pounds, ten-inch predecessor. If not for the brilliance of Dr. Cooper and other major players like Bell Labs, communication as we know it would be a far cry from what it is today.
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