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The First Cell Phone Call Ever Made

Martin Cooper

Cell phones have revolutionized the way that people communicate with each other. Before the mobile phone became popular, people dialed numbers to reach specific locations connected to land lines. If you wanted to contact a friend, then you would call her house or place of business. Since cell phones are mobile, though, they make it possible to call people instead of places. The development of cell phone technology and how it became popular is an interesting piece of technological history.


Martin Cooper placed the very first cell phone call on April 3, 1973. At the time, Cooper was the general manager of the Communication Systems Division at Motorola. For his first public cell phone call, Cooper chose to contact his rivals at AT&T. The combination of New York’s busy street sounds and Cooper’s voice told the engineers at AT&T that they were bested.


The cell phone that Cooper used in 1973 wouldn’t have been a big hit with today’s consumers. It weighed about 30 ounces (today’s phones weigh about a tenth of that) and would have cost thousands of dollars. It was, however, an accomplishment that signaled the beginning of a technological race to develop a consumer-friendly, portable phone.

 

The First Commercial Cell Phone

 

Motorola wouldn’t release the first commercially viable cell phone until ten years after Cooper’s historic call. In 1983, the company released its DynaTAC phone. Even after a decade of research, it still left plenty of room for improvement. The phone weighed in at 16 ounces. Anyone willing to lug one around would have to shell out a whopping $3,500 for the privilege. Suddenly, a couple hundred bucks for the latest smartphone doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

 

Developing Technology for Cell Phones

 

Difficulties associated with reducing the size and weight of mobile cell phones weren't all that Cooper and his team faced during that decade of research and development. Cellular devices can only function when they have an infrastructure of antennas that can send and receive signals. These infrastructures created macrocells that allowed cell phones to communicate with antennas within range.

 

Even though Motorola made the first public cell phone call and released the first commercial mobile device, it was AT&T that first began to divide its macrocells into smaller areas in 1994. Cell phones continued to become more popular, which meant that an increased number of users were burdening the cellular communication system. To combat this problem, AT&T spent over $30 million developing technology that allowed them to divide macrocells into microcells.

The first cell phone that was ever made was a stunning technological breakthrough in 1973. Over the next couple of decades, though, engineers showed that they could dramatically improve the device. The work, however, is far from over. Even though today’s smartphones give people high-speed Internet access, applications and many other technologically advanced features, companies continue to push further ahead so that they can develop the next technological breakthrough that will change the way people live.

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