The first cell phone call was placed 40 years ago today

By on April 3, 2013, 10:02 AM

It may be hard to believe but the first ever cellular phone call was made 40 years ago today. The call was placed by Martin Cooper, a Motorola employee at the time, on Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. Interestingly enough, Cooper’s first public call in front of the press was to Dr. Joel S. Engel, a competitor working at Bell Labs.

During the brief chat, Cooper told Engel that he was calling him from “a real handheld portable cell phone.” The handset was a Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, a 2.5-pound brick of a phone that had a battery life of just 35 minutes. If you need a visual, think back to the phone that Zack Morris made famous in the Saved by the Bell television series.

Cooper recalled that all he could hear on the other end was silence – apparently his rival was at a loss for words that he’d lost the race to make the first mobile call.

The first commercial cell phones became available for purchase in 1983 at a staggering $3,500. The “father” of the cell phone believed the cost and size of early handsets would keep them from being refined further for the mass market. Needles to say, Cooper was dead wrong.

Here we are just 40 years later where there are more than six billion mobile phones in use around the globe. What’s more staggering is the fact that cell phone adoption didn’t really take off until just 10-15 years ago.




User Comments: 15

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Guest said:

"Cooper recalled that all he could hear on the other end was silence"

Dodgy reception?? Happens to me all the time nowadays too!

VitalyT VitalyT said:

During the brief chat, Cooper told Engel that he was calling him from "a real handheld portable cell phone."

I bet the message was more like -

I've got a pho-one, nya-nya, nya-nya, nya!

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Damn, I didn't know the Cell Phone was nearly as old as I am!! :/

I was expecting the first phone to be the size of a backpack. I was greatly disappointed when the image portrayed a phone the size of what I would have called a satellite phone.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

I won't be around to see it but I wonder what'll it be like 40 years from now.

3 people like this | VitalyT VitalyT said:

I won't be around to see it but I wonder what'll it be like 40 years from now.

It will be the same phone model the guy is holding on the picture, after a nuclear holocaust, just as The Walking Dead TV finished the broadcast. The phones became self-aware, and struck humans using the anti-matter that was then used as their energy source.

Guest said:

1983 was 30 years ago, not 40.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

1983 was 30 years ago, not 40.

So it took 10 years for the phone to become commercially available, whats your point?

1 person liked this | bobgh bobgh said:

In recent months, I have seen several accounts in the press discussing Martin Cooper's role in the development of the cell phone. I worked for Martin at Motorola Communications and Industrial Electronics (C&IE) from November 1959 to June 1960. Motorola was developing the latest in a series of two way radio products of ever smaller size. These developments were part of an evolutionary process that led eventually to the cell phone. I was fresh out of school and my contributions were of no particular significance.

But let me tell you about something I observed on a daily basis at Motorola's plant in Chicago. Motorola C&IE had two black employees. They tended an incinerator on the opposite side of the parking lot from the plant. They were not allowed into the building. Not to take a break or eat lunch. Not to use the rest rooms. Not to warm up in the middle of Chicago's sub zero winters. And my fellow employees would take their breaks at the second floor windows overlooking that parking lot, and they would make insulting, racist comments about the two black employees.

I went to human relations, and in the most non-confrontational way that I could muster I asked why Motorola did not employ on the basis of ability, without regard to race. And at my six month review, I was terminated.

You don't have to take my word concerning Motorola's employment policies. In September of 1980, Motorola agreed to pay up to $10 million in back pay to some 11,000 blacks who were denied jobs over a seven-year period and to institute a $5 million affirmative action program, according to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

I have a question for Martin Cooper. Marty, what did you ever do to challenge the blatant, toxic racial discrimination at Motorola?

Robert Gilchrist Huenemann, M.S.E.E.

120 Harbern Way

Hollister, CA 95023-9708

VitalyT VitalyT said:

To bobgh: That was a great recap on the history. Not sure if Martin Cooper will hear you from this forum though, but you never know. And even if he does, he will likely never answer, it's just too embarrassing.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I have a question for Martin Cooper. Marty, what did you ever do to challenge the blatant, toxic racial discrimination at Motorola?
Excellent question, however I'm not sure it would be wise to continue harping on the past. Doing so will only keep racial rage at its finest. Live today as equals and forgive those that lived their lives as non-equals.

avoidz avoidz said:

I wonder what the long-term effects of all the wireless and cell phone signals on humans will be in 40 years.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

I wonder what the long-term effects of all the wireless and cell phone signals on humans will be in 40 years.

Loosing hair to radiation, growing bigger years from listening too much... the kind you personally should be familiar with:

avoidz avoidz said:

You forgot something...

Guest said:

Robert,why:

1.have you chosen to spray this 40-years old complaint all over the Internet? I have found at least 42 places where you have pasted this complaint word-for-word onto news websites that wrote an article about Dr. Cooper. Don't you have an original idea?

2.why are you complaining to news outlets? They can't do anything and your ont-of-date allegations are not going to cause them to suddenly cover this topic.

3. as you noted, Motorola did settle with black employees from this period that was before the landmark Civil Rights legislation of the 1960?s. These harms have been addressed and resolved, and as you know Motorola no longer behaves in this manner --- like most other American corporations.

So, please --- for all of us --- just shut up, already!

Find something more useful to do than spraying decades-old discrimination allegations at Dr. Cooper in an attempt to sully the reputation of one of the great inventors of our time. You're wasting everyone's time with this useless one-man smear campaign.

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