Martin Cooper, who had been in a race with another man to construct the first cell phone, made the first public call from a device the size of a brick on April 3, 1973.
Cooper, a Motorola engineer at the time, called Joel Engel, the head of AT&T-owned Bell Labs, and introduced himself using a new kind of mobile phone.
Anybody going by Cooper on the street that day could have witnessed history being made, even though the average consumer would not have access to cell phones for another decade.
Fifty years have passed since that first phone call, and the clunky gadget used by Cooper has given birth to a variety of sleeker, speedier phones that are now pervasive and transforming industries, culture, and the way we relate to one another. Cooper, however, argued that the prospect that mobile phones will one day be judged necessary to much of mankind was obvious from the outset, even though the immense reach and influence of cell phones may have surprised some.
Cooper, now 94, told –
“I was not surprised that everybody has a cell phone. We used to tell the story than that someday when you’re born you would be assigned a phone number. If you didn’t answer the phone, you would die.”
The proliferation of the use of mobile phones
Motorola had been competing with Bell Laboratories, the famed research department of AT&T that had produced the transistor and other inventions, to create the first cell phone for months before that first call.
“They were the biggest company in the world, and we were a little company in Chicago,” Cooper recalled. “They just didn’t think we were very important.”
According to his memory, Cooper’s adversary wasn’t quite as thrilled to receive the call as he was to receive the call from Cooper.
Cooper told CNN–
“You could tell I was not averse to rubbing his nose in this thing. He was polite to me,” “To this day, Joel does not remember that phone call, and I guess I don’t blame him.” (CNN was unable to contact Engel.)
Cooper reported that the phone’s introduction to the public was postponed by manufacturing problems and government regulations after his initial contact. Cooper, who now works as an adviser at the Federal Communications Commission, recalled the agency’s difficulty in allocating radio channels to promote competition.
There wouldn’t be a $3,900 DynaTAC (Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage) phone available for purchase for another decade. The phone, which resembled the one used by Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street,” was roughly a foot tall and weighed 2.5 pounds.
Contrast that with, say, the iPhone 14, which weighs 6 ounces and measures just under 6 inches, or with any number of Android budget smartphones costing $200-$300.
“Trying to improve the human experience”
The contemporary cell phone didn’t take off until the 1990s when its size and complexity decreased dramatically and it became easier to use. According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2021, nearly all U.S. residents (97%) already have access to a mobile phone.
Since making that first contact, Cooper has published a book on the revolutionary potential of mobile phones, launched several businesses, and made several public appearances. But it doesn’t mean he’s cool with all the new gadgets out there.
“Too many engineers are wrapped up in what they call technology and the gadgets, the hardware, and they forget that the whole purpose of technology is to make peoples’ lives better. People forget that, and I have to keep reminding them. We are trying to improve the human experience. That’s what technology is all about.”
But after 50 years, Cooper is generally pleased with the direction the phone has brought us in. He is an avid Apple Watch user who uses it to monitor his swimming performance and to sync his hearing aids with his iPhone. Cooper added that he thinks technological progress is generally beneficial.
“I’m an optimist. I know there are disadvantages to cell phones. We do have people that get addicted to it. We have people walking across the street talking on their cell phones. Overall, I think the cell phone has changed humanity for the better and that will continue in the future.”
I truly hope you learned all about journals that you needed to know from this post.