International History: Cellular Phone

Posted on: April 3, 2019
Tags: history, 1973, phone, on this day

1980 Motorola Cellular Phone Promotional Video

Where would we be without our cell phones?

On this day in 1973, the first mobile phone call was made by Martin Cooper, a Motorola engineer and executive He made the call to the Bell Labs headquarters in New Jersey, while being interviewed by the press on the streets of Manhattan. A competitor, Bell Labs (AT&T) had envisioned a mobile phone since the 40's so Cooper couldn't help but playfully rub the win in their faces.

The call was made on a prototype of the DynaTAC (dynamic adaptive total area coverage) 8000X. It weighed 2.4 lbs and had a battery life of 20 minutes (and took 10 hours to recharge). Ten years later, a version of the DynaTAC would become the first mobile phone to be sold commercially.

Cooper was a big player in the development of mobile phones and believed that each person should be assigned a number, not just a home or business. In 1967, he had already helped his company develop a handheld radio system for the Chicago PD. The Bell Company was advancing their technology as well but putting their efforts into the car phone, which was becoming common. Cooper thought this was too narrow a line of thinking. Motorola believed in Cooper and invested $100 million between 1973 and 1993 before any revenues were made.

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