First mobile phone call made 45 years ago today


First mobile phone call re-enacted
Martin Cooper uses a Motorola DynaTAC 8000x to re-enact the first cell phone call.
Photo: Wikipedia

A historic milestone occurred April 3, 1973: the very first call on a mobile phone. It was the phone equivalent of landing on the moon.

But that call wasn’t an inspirational message — some equivalent of “a giant leap for mankind.” Nope, Martin Cooper, who headed up Motorola’s team developing the cell phone, called Joel Engel, his equivalent at AT&T’s Bell Labs, to brag that his company had won the race to produce a working device.

While that first mobile phone call was the beginning of a revolution, initially it was a slow one. Mr. Cooper used a prototype Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, a 2.5 pound handset that wouldn’t be commercially available for another 10 years. Consumers had to wait until 1983 and put down $3,995 for one. That’s roughly equivalent to $9,987 in today’s money. (And you thought the iPhone X was expensive.)

Progress remained slow. Like the phones

The DynaTAC 8000x couldn’t send texts because that tech wouldn’t be invented for almost another decade. The first text was sent in 1992 by Neil Papworth of Sema Group Telecoms to Richard Jarvis at Vodafone. It said “Merry Christmas.”

The 2G cellular networks that became available in the 1990s provided woefully slow data speeds, and were replaced at a glacial pace. The original iPhone released in 2007 still used 2G, but the follow-up model the next year offered access to newer and faster 3G networks. At the time, “faster” meant at least 0.2 Mbps. Today’s 4G networks go at roughly 5 Mbps to 12 Mbps in real-world conditions.

In 2018, there are almost 5 billion mobile phone users in the world, about 60 percent of the entire human population. And 5G networks coming on line soon will be 10 times faster than what we have now. We allowe a lot to Martin Cooper and his team.


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