Half a Century of Cell Phones: Their Inventor Thinks We’re Obsessed With Them

On April 3, 1973, with a prototype of the Motorola DynaTac 8000X, Martin Cooper, made the first phone call from a mobile phone. Half a century after that milestone that would change the history of communications forever, the inventor of mobile telephony complains that people spend so much time looking at the screens of modern devices, to which they never got used to shying away.

Cooper, a 94-year-old American engineer who earned the nickname “cell phone dad“, he says that the device in our pockets now has virtually unlimited potential and could one day help in the battle against some diseases. But believes that human beings are obsessed with mobile phones.

On April 3, 1973, an engineer from the American firm Motorola made the first call from a mobile device, named DynaTAC. Cooper calls Joel Engel, a competitor who works for Bell Labs, from 6th Avenue in New York.

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“When I see someone crossing the street with their eyes on their phone I feel terrible. They are not thinking. But after several people have been run over, they will understand,” Cooper warned, who nevertheless remains hopeful that one day the devices will be beneficial to people’s health. “Each generation is smarter than the last. They will learn to use the cell phone more effectively. Humans sooner or later will figure it out,” he said.

“The cell phone has become an extension of the person, it can do so many things,” Cooper said. “And we are just at the beginning. We are just beginning to understand what it can do. In the future, we hope that the cell phone will revolutionize education. It will revolutionize the medical field. I know it sounds exaggerated, but in one or two generations, we will defeat diseases “.

Martin Cooper
In 1983, Motorola begins selling the DynaTAC 8000X in the United States for $3,995.

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Cooper has an Apple Watch and the latest iPhone, which he intuitively jumps from his email to his photos to YouTube to the control of his hearing aid. He updates the device every time the company releases a version, which he scrutinizes, but confesses: “I’m never going to learn to use a mobile phone the way my grandchildren and great-grandchildren do,” she said.

Cooper’s iPhone, which he uses primarily for calls, is a far removed version of the heavy block of wires and circuitry he used to make the first mobile call in 1973. Back then, he worked for Motorola leading a team of designers and engineers in a race to produce the first truly mobile technology and avoid being left out of an emerging market.

The company had invested millions of dollars in the project in hopes of defeating bell systema giant that dominated telecommunications in the United States since its inception in 1877.

Martin Cooper
“I’m never going to learn to use a cell phone the way my grandchildren and great-grandchildren do,” says Cooper, 94.

Bell engineers had floated the idea of ​​a cellular telephone system just after World War II.and by the late 1960s they had managed to put telephones in vehicles, partly because of the huge battery they required to function.

But for Cooper, this wasn’t real mobility. In late 1972, he decided that I wanted a device that people could use anywhere And, with Motorola’s resources, we assembled experts in semiconductors, transistors, filters, and antennas, who worked non-stop for three months.

In late March, the team unveiled the DynaTAC (Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage) model. “This phone weighed over two pounds and had a battery for 25 minutes of talk time,” he said. “The latter was not a problem. The phone was so heavy that I couldn’t hold it for more than 25 minutes.”

Martin Cooper
Nicknamed the brick, the DynaTAC 8000X It weighs a little less than a kilo and measures 33 centimeters.

The recipient of Cooper’s first call was his rival. He was on Sixth Avenue [en Nueva York] and it occurred to me to call my competition at the Bell System, Dr. Joel Engel. “And I said, ‘Joel, this is Martin Cooper. I’m calling on a handheld cellphone. But a real, personal, portable, handheld cellphone.’ There was silence at the other end of the line. I think she was grinding her teeth.”

The first cell phones weren’t cheap, valued at $5,000, but they did bring benefits to their early adopters, who Cooper said included people in the real estate business: “It turns out that people who do real estate, show houses, or serve new customers over the phone (…) Now they were able to do both at the same time, which doubled their productivity.”

Cooper always knew, however, that the device he and his team created would change the world: “We knew that one day everyone had cell phones. We’re almost there. There are more mobile subscriptions in the world than people. So that part of the dream came true.”

The history of the cell phone

From the brick-sized mobile phones popular with stockbrokers to the intensely powerful computers found in all of our pockets today:

1973: hello motorcycle

On April 3, 1973, an engineer from the American firm Motorola made the first call from a mobile device, baptized as DynaTAC. Cooper calls Joel Engel, a competitor who works for Bell Labs, from 6th Avenue in New York. But it takes 10 more years for the first mobile to be marketed.

In 1983, Motorola begins selling the DynaTAC 8000X in the United States for $3,995. Nicknamed the brick, it weighs just under two pounds and measures 13 inches.

1992: “Merry Christmas”

On December 3, 1992, Vodafone employee Richard Jarvis receives the first text message. Your computer wishes you “Merry Christmas.” The message would one day sell at auction in the form of an NFT in 2021 for $150,000.

1997: Finnish innovation

The Finnish brand Nokia initiates a series of innovations that go beyond the limits of mobile devices. In 1997, its 6110 model introduces mobile gaming to the masses with “Snake” and two years later, 7110 is the first phone to use wireless networks for browsing, and the same year, 3210 brings predictive typing to the world.

In 2003, Nokia launches its economical and robust model 1100, aimed at developing countries. It moves 250 million units, making it the best-selling phone in history.

2001: 3G in Japan

In 2001, Japan is the first country to upgrade to a 3G mobile network, which enables high-speed Internet access. It comes on the heels of other Japanese innovations, including a phone with video calling capabilities, the Kyocera VP-210 in 1999, and a year later, the Sharp SH04, the first with a built-in rear camera.

2007: First iPhone

“Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone”says Steve Jobs while introducing the iPhone to an adoring crowd in 2007. It promises an iPod, phone, and “Internet communicator” all in one device, eventually retailing for $499-$599. The app store was introduced in 2008.

The same year, the HTC Dream is the first smartphone released with Google’s Android operating system.

2009: Messaging apps arrive

WhatsApp is launched in 2009 and many other messaging apps quickly follow: Viber, WeChat, Telegram, Signal. These applications, which use the Internet instead of traditional networks, became more popular than SMS in 2012.

This year, Stockholm becomes the first city to offer users very high-speed 4G coverage in 2009.

2011: a hitherto unknown word: “emojis”

Siri arrives in 2011, allowing users of Apple’s iPhone 4S to send messages, schedule appointments, make calls or even search the Internet simply by asking their phone. Google and Amazon develop voice assistants competition in subsequent years.

In the same year, “emoji” fever took over the planet when the smileys, sketched in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita, were integrated into the iPhone’s library of characters.

2019: 5G and foldable phones

On April 5, 2019, South Korea becomes the first country to be covered by 5G with the promise of even faster browsing. In the same year, the South Korean firm Samsung and the Chinese Huawei are the first major manufacturers to launch smartphones with a folding screen, the Galaxy Fold and the Mate X.


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