Let’s indulge in a bit of nostalgia by looking at how it came about that we today load our pockets or handbags with cell phones of varying sizes.
It started 40 years ago, yes in 1973 when a Dr. Martin Cooper demonstrated the Motorola DynaTAC phone on the streets of New York, really as a bit of a show off to major rival Joel Engel at the Bell Labs to whom he made a call from the street using his prototype cell phone saying: “I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone.”
Joel Engels reply is unknown, but bearing in mind that in 1973 your phone was definitely not one to carry around with you, Dr. Cooper’s demonstration must have rung a few bells. He most likely didn’t mention
that the brick weighed over a kilogramme, was over 20cm long and more than 11 cm deep, and the story goes that its battery talk time of about 20 minutes didn’t matter because no one could hold that bulk to the ear for that long.
Dr. Cooper did create a stir with his demonstration since walking around near Radio City Music Hall busily talking to a brick like thing of plastic was a spectacle, and to even sophisticated New Yorkers it was a draw dropping sight. Who’d believe someone walking around while making a phone call.
Cooper and his design team had achieved a dazzling effect and proved to the world that
they had invented something new, a new technology that had been in the works for a long time, partly because it had to be approved for use by the authorities [the Federal Communication Commission] and partly because work had been going on in respect of car phones, [as opposed to handheld], which could have become the overriding technology. Cooper and his team knew this so speed was of the essence to build the portable cell phone.
Since no one actually knew what on earth was a cell phone they created it, in 6 weeks! With 8 members in the team they worked like mad to come up with the first prototype and not least the body housing the electronics. The one chosen was the most practical even if the bulkiest to make room for the battery. In October 1973, 7 months after the New York demonstration they filed a patent not just for the phone for a whole radio telephone system of the type we are more familiar with today.
As Motorola saw it, it was a race to ensure that human based mobiles, rather than vehicle based fixed phones would win the day. That way you could assign a number to a unit representing an individual instead of a location, the personification of telephony.
40 years on a few thoughts come to mind, we still in many places have the overhead wires of the fixed line systems and we now have the cell towers everywhere, the freedom from location envisaged with the invention has also given us the need for a linking connection to a network, and has shown us that instead of writing letters, the cell phone together with 140 characters can change the world.