The inventor of the cell phone: thought that one day everyone would have a cell phone

Martin Cooper speaks "Dynatack," The first commercial mobile phone appeared on the market in 1983.

Martin Cooper talks about the DynaTAC, the first commercial mobile phone to hit the market in 1983.

Story highlights

  • In 1973, Martin Cooper and his team at Motorola produced and demonstrated the first mobile phone.
  • The first call costs $3,900, and calls cost an additional 50 cents per minute, Cooper said.
  • Cooper: ‚ÄúSomeday everyone [cell] phone”
  • He currently has several cell phones, but no iPhone, which he gave away.

(CNN) — In 1973, Martin Cooper didn’t know it yet, but he changed the world.

Cooper and his team at the telecommunications company Motorola developed a mobile phone that is perhaps the only thing that supports the lives of business professionals and teenagers.

It was about the size of a brick and was not sold commercially for another ten years. But it worked, as Cooper demonstrated on a New York sidewalk.

The concept of cellular technology had already been created by Motorola’s rival AT&T, whose Bell Laboratories introduced a system that allowed calls to move from one cell to another while remaining on the same channel. However, AT&T focused this technology on car phones.

Cooper wanted to give people the freedom to talk on the phone away from their cars. So he and his Motorola embarked on a project to create a more portable device.

Motorola spent three months prototyping a portable cell phone, which Cooper gave a public demonstration in April 1973. The company’s first commercial mobile phone, the DynaTAC, was launched 10 years later.

Cooper, now 81, is the founder of ArrayComm, a company working to improve cellular networks, smart antennas and wireless communications. He and his wife are also the inventors of the Jitterbug, a basic cell phone for the elderly.

Martin Cooper made what is known as the first public cell phone call in New York City in 1973.

Martin Cooper made what is known as the first public cell phone call in New York City in 1973.

Cooper was surprised when his landline disconnected from us. After calling his cell phone back, he had the opportunity to hear about the development of a device that changed the face of communication as we know it.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.

CNN: What was the technology environment like in 1973, and what sparked the idea to move to cell phones and compete with AT&T’s car phones?

Cooper: There were no large-scale integrated circuits, no computers, no closed-circuit television, no LCD screens. I can’t tell you everything that didn’t exist in 1973. But we’ve been making phones for years.Years in the car, and we [Motorola] I thought the time had come when I was ready for personal communication. Because people migrate naturally.

For 100 years, people who wanted to talk on the phone have been tied up with wire to their desks or homes, and now we’re locking them in cars? That’s not a good thing.

So we decided to do business with AT&T. By 1973, we decided to make a great presentation. And we decided that the best way to do that was to build a phone and give people the experience of actually making calls on a personal cell phone. That was the origin of the mobile phone we created.

When was the first time you made a phone call? Who was it to?

Everyone thought they knew the answer to that question! The first public appeal took place on the streets of New is [Joel S. Engel], head of AT&T’s cellular program. I called him and said: “Joel, I’m calling from a cell phone, a real cell phone, a handheld portable real cell phone.”

I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was really quiet for a while. My guess is that he was grinding his teeth. He was very polite and hung up the phone. When I asked him, he said he didn’t remember what happened at that time.

What was your reaction to mobile phones? Did people think it was unbelievable, impossible, unnecessary?

Well, people were blown away by the concept! It was beyond imagination that more than half of the people in the world owned these mobile phones. But people were completely surprised by the fact that they could walk around with a phone to their ear and make calls.

Remember, we didn’t even have cordless phones back then.held a press conference [in 1973]I handed the phone to this young female reporter and told her to make a call. And she said, “Can I call her mother in Australia?” And I said, “Of course!” And she did it.

This woman was truly enchanted and couldn’t imagine how this tiny phone could reach the other side of the world and actually talk to her mother who answered the phone. Sophisticated New Yorkers stood with their mouths agape.

The reception was very special. Our chairman happened to be in Washington when we did the next demonstration. [in the early 1980s]. He visited with the Vice President… [George H.W. Bush] …and when I showed him this new phone, he was completely fascinated by it.

He said, “I have to show this to Ron.” And next thing you know, he was showing it to Ronald Reagan. And Reagan asks, “What’s keeping us from this?”

What was the phone like? How much did it cost and who actually bought it?

phone [was] Measures approximately 10 or 11 inches tall, 1 1/2 inches wide and 4 inches deep. It weighed about 2 1/2 pounds.

How much was it?

If you think about it, this is not a commercial product and if it had to be made it would cost about $1 million. It was 10 years after him that we developed a commercial product. He sold the product in October 1983, and the price of the phone at that time was $3,900. So it’s like buying a cell phone today for him $10,000.

That’s a significant amount. Who actually bought these phones?

Well, I can’t say there were many people. In fact, it was a very small number. Initially, it was not only the wealthy who participated, but also those who had to move. It was aimed at people who were already familiar with technology because they used pagers, such as real estate agents and doctors.

Cell phones didn’t become a big deal until another seven or eight years later. Everyone thinks that cell phones have been around for a long time and have always been popular, but it wasn’t until 1990 that cell phones really started to explode in popularity.

Have you ever thought that phones would become available to everyone?

Well, someday everyone [cell] But it was hard to imagine that happening in my lifetime. And now there are about 5 billion mobile phones in the world. oh.

What do you think about advances in mobile phones, especially features like apps and cameras?

We were dreamers, and we never imagined that all of this would come together. And I’m not really sure if that’s a great thing or not. Cell phones have become so complex and difficult to use that you wonder if they were designed for actual humans or engineers.

I think what’s really going to happen is that as our industry grows, we’re going to see a lot of different types of phones. This includes just a simple phone call. In fact, my wife and I started a company and she designed the Jitterbug, which is just a phone.

What kind of phone do you have now?

I’m sitting here looking at all my phones. I’m talking to you on a phone I’m trying out at a company in Europe. The phone, called Vertu, starts at $5,000. And that’s the case with very cheap models. You can also purchase a solid gold version of this phone.

That means this phone will be about half the price of the first phone, even with inflation.

Yes, and the fact is that this phone is not a very complicated phone. Yes, it includes a phone book and can access certain parts of the web, but it’s not a PDA. Cannot read email. Camera not included. It’s a really basic phone.

I also have a droid. I got a Motorola Droid and am using it. I also have a jitterbug. I’m always trying out all the latest phones. I had an iPhone for a while and gave it to my grandson. The kids are really into it. But I think Android smartphones are now catching up. The latest versions of Android smartphones are better, if not better, than iPhones in every way.

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