Cell phones and other handheld mobile devices are ubiquitous in today’s world, but in retrospect, the prospect of making a phone call using a device with no wires was still a dream half a century ago.
That dream came closer to becoming a reality on April 3, 1973, when Martin Cooper made the first handheld cellular phone call in public.
Considered to be the father of the mobile phone, Cooper was an employee at Motorola and led the team behind building the world’s first commercially available cell phone which launched in 1983.
The First Call
Cooper made the first call through a handheld cellular phone in public from a prototype DynaTAC. The call was routed to a base station Motorola had installed on a rooftop, then into AT&T’s landline telephone system.
He dialed the number of Dr. Joel S. Engel, head of Bell Labs (Motorola’s chief competitor at that time) and said, “Joel, this is Marty. I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone.”
That demonstration landed the DynaTAC on the cover of Popular Science Magazine.
Bell Labs was actually the company that came up with the idea of cellular communication back in 1947, but their system was large and limited to being used in cars. Motorola, along with Cooper revolutionized the technology by making it small enough to put it in the hands of people everywhere.
Cooper’s work at Motorola led to the launch of the DynaTAC in 1983, ten years after the first demonstration. While he left the company prior to launch, the device he helped build set off a revolution, and is what led to the rise of Motorola as an American business superpower.