On April 3, 1973, history was made when Motorola engineer Martin Cooper made the first ever cellphone call — to a rival.
Cooper was standing on New York's Sixth Avenue when he hoisted the 2.5-pound prototype to his ear and dialed up Joel Engel of AT&T-owned Bell Laboratories.
Cooper famously said, "I'm calling you from a cellular phone, a real cellular phone, a handheld, portable, real cellular phone."
“There was silence at the other end of the line,” Cooper told Bloomberg in 2015. “To this day, Joel doesn’t remember that call, and I’m not sure I blame him.”
At the time, mobile phones were a futuristic concept that had yet to be fully realized. The first commercially available mobile phone was still years away, and the technology was still in its infancy. But Cooper's call marked a significant leap forward in the development of mobile communication.
The call was made on a prototype that would eventually become the first commercially available mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x. It was clunky, heavy, and about the size of a shoe box, measuring 10 inches long.
The DynaTAC was also incredibly expensive, costing nearly $3,995 (equivalent to roughly $28,000 today). But despite its size and cost, it paved the way for the modern smartphone, and its impact on the world of technology cannot be overstated.
In the years that followed Cooper's historic call, mobile phones continued to evolve and become more sophisticated. It wasn't until the 1990s that the modern cellphone emerged, as its size and price tag shrank.
Today, 100% of American adults ages 18-50 — and 97% of all American adults — say they own a cellphone of some kind, according to a 2021 study by Pew Research Center.
They're an essential part of our everyday lives, enabling us to stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues no matter where we are in the world.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first cellphone call, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on just how far we've come in just half a century.
From the bulky, expensive devices of the past to the sleek, touchscreen smartphones of today, the evolution of the mobile phone has been nothing short of remarkable.
And with new innovations and breakthroughs on the horizon, it's clear that the mobile phone will continue to play a critical role in shaping the way society communicates for many years to come.
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