The Cry Baby is on sabbatical ....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 3 – the 38th anniversary of the first cell phone call

Wikimedia Commons
April 3, 1973 should be marked at a national – make that international – holiday. It was on this day that Martin Cooper, now 82, made the first public cell phone call. That first cell phone was so big that it was often described as resembling a shoe, or a brick, weighing 2½ pounds.

Standing on Sixth Avenue in New York City, Cooper made a phone call from a prototype handheld cellular phone before going to a press conference upstairs in the hotel. The phone connected Cooper with the base station on the roof of the Burlington House (now the Alliance Capital Building) across the street from the hotel and into the AT&T land-line telephone system.  As reporters and passers-by watched, he dialed the number and held the phone to his ear and made a call to to Dr. Joel S. Engel, head of research at Bell Labs. 

"As I walked down the street while talking on the phone, sophisticated New Yorkers gaped at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call."

There had been forms of mobile phones before that time, but they were essentially radios, powered by heavy duty components hidden in the car trunk. Cooper was the general manager of Motorola's communications systems division, and believed that people wanted to be able to use the telephone as a mobile device and not be tethered to a wire.

"People want to talk to other people -- not a house, or an office, or a car. Given a choice, people will demand the freedom to communicate wherever they are, unfettered by the infamous copper wire."

Cooper was certainly a visionary, who we can either thank or curse, depending on your viewpoint. A big thank-you Martin Cooper from the Cry Baby.


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