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When Was the First Mobile Phone Invented?

Today we don’t think anything about it. Your favorite ringtone brings your phone to life and you answer. Thanks to the invention of the mobile phone, this can happen anywhere, in the car, in the store, even when you are out on a walk. When was the first mobile phone invented?

The mobile phone is the result of a race between two major communications companies. Bell Labs Engineers at AT&T had invented cells for mobile phone base stations in 1947. These mobile phone base stations were used by law enforcement officials to communicate. They were not the mobile phones that we know of today. Instead of being able to hand off signals between towers, there was one main tower that covered a wide area. If a user was outside of that area, they would not be able to communicate. Also, if one call was being placed it took over the entire frequency. While it was a step in the right direction, technology had a long way to go to get to the first mobile phone and the race began.

After this invention it was a race between AT&T and Motorola to see who would invent the first mobile phone. Martin Cooper, a Motorola executive, is largely thought to be the inventor of the first mobile phone. Cooper was born in Chicago, Illinois. He received his degree in electrical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1950, and received a master’s degree there in 1957. Cooper credits his time watching Captain Kirk using his communicator on Star Trek with the inspiration for the mobile phone. Today Cooper is the founder and CEO of ArrayComm.

Cooper’s invention of the mobile phone is a different concept than the car phone, which had to be permanently installed in a car. The mobile phone that was invented by Cooper was the first phone to be portable. His mobile phone invention was the first of the analog phones and it was also the first to be able to carry a signal from one tower to another without dropping the call. These first mobile phones were called “bricks” because of their rectangular shape and heavy weight. They were large, bulky, and heavy, but they were the first generation of today’s mobile phones.

The first mobile phone call was placed on April 3, 1973 on the streets of New York City. Cooper placed this first call to Joel Engle, the head of research at Bell laboratories at the time. His comment was “Hi Joel, guess where I’m calling from?” New Yorkers passing by, gaped at the man who was talking on the phone without wires. At this time, portable phones were unheard of, so the sight of Cooper having a phone conversation on the streets of New York was a shock, even for New Yorkers who are used to seeing strange sights.

Since the invention of the mobile phone in 1973, there have been three generations of cell phones. In that time cell phones have gone from analog to digital. They have become smaller and sleeker so that they now fit into a person’s pocket or purse. Phone capabilities have grown allowing users not only to talk on the phone, but to search the Internet and send e-mails. Within three decades, Cooper’s invention has become an integral part of daily life.

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