The Invention of the Cell Phone




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BBC News Anchor: Now 50 years ago today on a busy, New York street, a phone call was made that would change life as we know it. It was the first one ever made from a mobile, and signaled the start of a new era of communication.

Our technology editor Debbie Kleinman has been talking to the man that made that historic call on the 3rd of April 1973.

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Mobile phones. We love them. The UN estimates three-quarters of the world’s population owns a mobile phone, and there are more mobiles than people in the United Kingdom, according to the industry’s trade body.

This man helped make it all happen; Marty Cooper was an engineer at Motorola. On the 3rd of April 1973, on a street corner in New York, he made the world’s first public mobile phone call to a competitor at a rival company.

Marty Cooper, Engineer: “I was on Sixth Avenue demonstrating this cell phone. I took out my phone book — that gives you an idea what primitive times these were — and I called my counterpart in the Bell System, a fellow named Joel Bing.
I dialed his number — and amazingly, he answered.

And I said Joel I’m calling you through a cell phone — but a real cell phone . . . a personal . . . handheld . . . portable . . . cell phone.

Silence on the other end of the line; I think he was gritting his teeth.”

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Bell had been focusing on developing a car phone and Marty wasn’t impressed.

Marty Cooper, Engineer: “We have been trapped in our homes and offices by this copper wire for over a 100 years; and now they were going to trap us in our cars and we at Motorola just didn’t believe that was the way to go.”

The way the first call was made hasn’t really changed: the phone converts your voice into an electric signal which then modulates a radio wave. The radio wave goes to a mast. The mast sends your voice to the person you’re calling. And by reversing the process, that person can hear you speak.

Except there weren’t many masts around in 1973 and mobile phones are now unrecognizable from the first model.

Ben Wood, Founder, Mobile Phone Museum: “Well there’s some real icons from the mobile phone; kind of timeline here.”

Ben Wood knows all about the history of mobile phones: he has his own collection.

Ben Wood, Founder, Mobile Phone Museum: “So here we have really a true icon: the Motorola Dynatac 8000X, the first truly hand-portable mobile phone conceived in 1973, when the first phone call was made on a prototype of this . . . launched eventually in 1984.

And that device cost about four-thousand dollars at the time — which would be about nine-thousand-five-hundred pounds today.”
Reporter: “Nine thousand pounds . . . and it’s pretty heavy again. What’s the battery life like?”
Ben Wood, Founder, Mobile Phone Museum: “The battery life on that was about 30 minutes. It would take about 10 hours to charge, and had a standby of around a similar time as well.”
Reporter: “Wow.”

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Marty Cooper the pioneer of the mobile phone isn’t a fan of current designs.

Marty Cooper, Engineer: “I think today’s phone is suboptimal; it’s not a really good phone in many respects. You just take a piece of plastic and glass that’s flat, and you put it against your curved head, and you hold your hand in an uncomfortable position.”

So what does Marty think about the future of phones?

Marty Cooper, Engineer: “We are still at the very beginning of the cell phone revolution. We are going to eliminate poverty because we are becoming more productive because of the cell phone. And I just mentioned we’re going to eliminate disease. Our educational system is going to be revolutionized.

I think all these things are potentials of the cell phone is going to do — not do it by itself — but it will be an essential part of this great future.”

Debbie Kleinman BBC News.

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Smoke Signal. The cell phone was invented in 1997. True or false? Was the mobile phone invented in Switzerland or the Netherlands?

Telegraph. Is owning a mobile phone the same as having a hammer, saw, pliers, wrench, screwdriver and drill?

Morse Code. Only rich people, scientists, tech engineers and hobbyists have mobile phones. Is this right or wrong?

Copper Wire. How did Marty Cooper realize that his invention worked? When did he know that his device functioned? Did he call his mother?

Land Line Telephone. Was Marty happy about the development of car phones?

Cell Phone, Mobile Phone. Were the first mobile phones produced by Apple? Were they small and cheap? Did their battery power last a long time?

Personal Computer (PC). Does Marty like or dislike modern smartphones?

Apple, Macintosh. Is he optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
Screen, Keyboard, Mouse. All my friends, family members and I have cell phones. Yes or no? How many different mobile phones have you had?

Laptop, Notebook. Do you remember the time before smartphones existed? Do your parents or grandparents remember life before the mobile phone?

iPod, iPad. Do you do everything or most of your tasks on smartphones?

iPhone, Smartphone Are there any disadvantages or drawbacks to telephones?

Cloud Computing. What might happen in the future?

AI (Artificial Intelligence). What could or should people, tech companies and governments do?

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