The day the mobile phone went public 38 years ago, leaving New Yorkers bemused and bewildered
[sursa] The humble mobile phone has transformed our lives beyond recognition over the last 15 years. So it may come as a surprise to learn that the world’s first mobile phone call was made 38 years ago yesterday. That’s right, the first public telephone call made by a man walking down the street took place in 1973 – the same year the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam and Paul McCartney and Wings released Band On The Run.
Dialling his destiny: Motorola’s Martin Cooper makes the world’s first public mobile phone call in New York on April 3, 1973 On April 3 that year Martin Cooper, who was then 44, took a prototype mobile phone for a walk around New York City. Unsurprisingly, the reaction he received from passers-by was one of complete bewilderment.
Mr Cooper, now 82, recalled: ‘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.
‘Remember that in 1973, there weren’t cordless telephones, let alone cellular phones.
‘I made numerous calls, including one where I crossed the street while talking to a New York radio reporter – probably one of the more dangerous things I have ever done in my life.’
At the time Mr Cooper was general manager of Motorola’s Communications Systems Division.
As he walked around New York that day, his made his first call to Dr Joel S Engel, his rival and head of research at Bell Labs phone company. Mr Cooper called his office landline to break the news that Motorola had beaten Bell in developing the first mobile phone.
He then let reporters make their own calls to verify that the invention actually worked and that they weren’t the victims of an elaborate hoax.
It had long been Mr Cooper’s vision for phones to become portable, in an age when even James Bond dared not dream of making a phone call outside of a vehicle. For that was as portable as phones had become up to that point.
While the wealthy had been able to install a phone in their car for years, the major downside was the need to also install a substantial amount of equipment in the boot for it to work.
Mr Cooper’s device weighed 2.5lbs and would now be considered a ‘brick’, of course.
It would be ten years before Motorola finally introduced the Dyna-TAC, the first commercially available mobile phone, into service in 1983. The device weighed 1lb and cost a staggering $3,500 (£2,170).
Mr Cooper went on to found ArrayComm, a wireless technology and systems company, in 1992.