The inventor of the mobile phone, Marty Cooper, made the first ever call from a mobile cellular device 50 years ago.
On this date 50 years ago today, April 3rd 1973, Marty Cooper made history by making the first call from a mobile device. Cooper stood on the corner of Sixth Avenue in New York City and took a phone book out of his pocket to make the call.
The now 94-year-old reflected with BBC on how he made the call using a large white device that had many bystanders confused as to what they were looking at.
At the time, Cooper was an engineer at Motorola, so he took the opportunity to make his first call to an engineer at Bell Laboratories, a big competitor for Motorola at the time. Cooper told the individual on the other end of the line that he was “calling from a personal, handheld, portable cell phone,” to which he was met with silence. “I think he was gritting his teeth.”
Bell Laboratories was more focused on developing a car-based phone during this time as well.
“Could you believe that? So we had been trapped in our homes and offices by this copper wire for over 100 years, and now they were going to trap us in our cars!”
History and the past 50 years showed that both Motorola and Cooper were correct in their initial evaluation that a mobile phone device would be more widely used and accepted by society.
The ways in which we make mobile phone calls now, versus 50 years ago, has actually not changed much. Your phone converts your voice into an electronic signal that is then modulated to a radio wave. The radio wave then goes to what’s known as “the mast,” where it is then sent to the person you’re calling.
According to Ben Wood, who runs the Mobile Phone Museum, today’s mobile phones are obviously a lot different from Cooper’s original model.
“The commercial version of Marty Cooper’s prototype, the Motorola Dynatac 8000X, was released 11 years after that first call, in 1984. It would cost the equivalent of £9,500 ($11,700) if bought today. Basically, it was just dial the number and make the call,” says Wood.
“There was no messaging, no camera. Thirty minutes of talk-time, 10 hours to charge the battery, about 12 hours of stand-by time and a 6-inch antenna on top.”
The first mobile phone released also weighed around 1.7 lbs., nearly four times more than the weight of the current iPhone model.
Cooper reflected on what mobile phones have become, stating that obviously he had no idea that within 50 years a device invented initially just to allow users to call people from anywhere would become essentially a computer in all of our pockets.
“I think today’s phone is suboptimal. It’s really not a very good phone in many respects. Just think about it. You take a piece of plastic and glass that’s flat – and you put it against the curve of your head; you hold your hand in an uncomfortable position; when you want to do these wonderful things that it can do, you have to get an app [first]. “
He believes, in the future, “artificial intelligence will either create, or select, phone owners’ apps for them, depending on their individual needs. One day the device will monitor our health, maximize our productivity and improve our lives immeasurably.
“The cell phone is not going to do it by itself, but it will be the central part of this great future. We are still at the very beginning of the cell phone revolution,” Cooper exclaimed.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.