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History of Cell Phones

Cell phones have been in existence for decades, but it is only in recent years that technology has advanced to the point where cell phones are equipped to provide every media need.

1950’s-1970’s
The first commercial cell phone, MTA, was released in Sweden in 1956 by Ericsson. It weighed 90 pounds and was far from the sleek, convenient models that exist today. In 1965, Ericsson released an updated version called the MTB. It was less bulky than the first version and initially had 150 subscribers. Despite the advances that had been made, there were many drawbacks to this early model. Users were obliged to stay within range of the tower that initially picked up the call, because there was no technology to allow the signal to switch between towers without dropping the call. Although the technology for a “call handoff” system between towers was invented in 1970, it wasn’t enough to save this first commercial cell phone company. When the company shut the MTB service down in 1983 they had only 600 customers. It wasn’t until technology began improving that cell phones became more prevalent.

1980’s
The first generation of modern-day cell phones was developed in the 1980’s. In 1983, after 15 years and 100 million dollars in research costs, the first handheld mobile phone in the United States, the Motorola Dyna’s 8000X, hit the U.S. market. It was known as the “brick” because of its rectangular shape. These early phones used analog transmission. And rather than being portable, they were known as car phones because they were actually installed in cars. Some came with tote bags and plugged into the DC outlet for battery power, but they were too heavy and bulky to be considered portable. The earliest cell phones were genuinely “car phones”.

1990’s
The 1990’s saw the second generation (2G) of cell phones come into existence. These phones operated on GSM, IS-136 (TDMA) and IS-95 (CDMA) mobile phone systems. Technology finally caught up with the cell phone, and because of key advancements in batteries, and energy efficient electronics, cell phones began to trend smaller. Transmission of cell phone signals also made the move from analog to digital signals. This switch offered callers better quality calls and fewer dropped calls. Analog signals were quickly replaced by digital. Text messaging was also introduced during this cell phone generation, and it was quickly embraced by the youth. The younger generations also began consuming media through their phones in the form of downloadable ringtones, making the cell phone a new venue for the marketplace. During the 1990’s cell phone usage took hold and cell phones moved away from being a novelty and towards becoming a necessity for a fast-paced life.

2000-Present
The cell phone today has come a long way from the behemoths of earlier decades. No longer used solely as phones, the third generation (3G) of cell phones comes equipped with high speed internet access and e-mail. Video telephony is also available on modern day models. Technology is ever changing to make the cell phone into a handheld media base rather than a simple phone. Newer technologies that are hitting the market equip phones with the ability for streaming TV and radio through cell phones. The cell phone is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity for all types of people from businessmen to teenagers. The possibilities are endless.

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