The Cell Phone Turns 40!


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In this day and age, when we depend on our cell phones for everything - From communicating to snapping photos to even playing games - it is hard to imagine life without one. Yet, it was only 40 years ago on April 3rd, 1973, that Motorola Vice President Martin Cooper, stepped onto a New York City sidewalk and placed the first known cell phone call in history.

What's even more amazing is that it took another ten years for the company to introduce the first commercial cell phone to the market. As you may have probably guessed the DynaTAC 8000X was nothing like the cool phones that are available today - Nicknamed 'The Brick', it was about a foot tall, weighed 2.5 pounds and cost a whopping 3,995 USD. Also, thanks to its clunky and inefficient battery, it could be used for only about 35 minutes after which, it had to be charged for a full 10 hours! And that was a good thing too - Because each voice call cost 40 cents a minute at peak hours and 24 cents a minute at off-peak hours!

Given that Motorola had been competing with AT&T's Bell Labs to create the first cell phone, it was not surprising that Martin Cooper's inaugural call was made to his rival Joel S. Engel at Bell Labs to inform him that he was calling from a real handheld portable cellular phone. Though Engel cannot recall the conversation, according to Martin, there was dead silence over the phone and then a short polite conversation, after which, he hung up.

Martin who was inspired to create the cell phone after watching Captain Kirk's gold flip-top communicator in Star Trek, recalls New Yorkers gawking at him as he walked along the street, continuing to make phone calls to many people including one to a New York Times reporter, whilst crossing a street - The most dangerous thing he has ever done!

Surprisingly, the now 84 year-old who is also credited with improving the two-way car radio inside police cars and for devising the microphone clip they use to communicate from outside the vehicles, is not too thrilled with the modern day smartphones - He thinks they are just too complicated!

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