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Mobile Phone Celebrates 40th Anniversary Of First Call

Motorola Dynatac 2
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The first mobile phone call was made on 3 April 1973 by a Motorola engineer

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first ever mobile phone call, which took place on 3 April 1973 in New York.

It was made by Martin Cooper, a senior engineer at Motorola, who called a rival at AT&T to tell him that he was speaking from a mobile phone. He is reported to have said “I’m ringing you just to see if my call sounds good at your end,” before entering a press conference on Sixth Avenue announcing the technology.

The call was made on a Motorola DynaTAC phone, a device that weighed 2.2lbs, was nine inches tall and had 35 minutes of talk time – a far cry from modern smartphones.

Motorola mobile call

Motorola DynatacMotorola described the device in a 1973 press release as “a handheld, completely portable telephone which will allow its user to receive telephone calls from virtually anywhere in a metro area equipped with the new DynaTAC system.”

“This new DYNA TAC portable radio telephone will operate over radio frequencies and “talk” to any conventional telephone in the world,” it added, promising it would be as easy to use as an ordinary phone.

Cooper, now aged 85, was general manager of Motorola’s Communication Systems Division and claimed he was inspired to create a mobile phone following the invention of the car telephone by AT&T in the 1960s.

He is widely regarded as one of the fathers of mobile technology and his achievements have been recognised by the National Academy of Engineering, which awarded him the Charles Stark Draper Prize in February. The award is the academy’s highest honour and considered to be the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for engineering.

Technological advances

Although he conceded that the cost of the first mobiles would be prohibitive to most, Motorola said that it expected that the price of handsets would come down over time and that it anticipated demand from diverse groups of people.

Mobile technology has advanced significantly in the last four decades with devices becoming smaller, thinner and more advanced. More than half of the UK’s population own a smartphone, while the advent of 3G and 4G technology has encouraged the growth of the mobile internet  – a development that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop says could impact more people than the Industrial Revolution did in the 19th century.

“The mobile phone has completely transformed both our personal and professional lives,” said Trevor Connell, managing director at Siemens Enterprise Communication. “We’ve seen a raft of advances in telecommunication technologies in the last 40 years, with smartphones now able to send SMS, MMS, video and connect to the internet. The mobile phone industry is the fastest-growing in the world. The consumerisation of the mobile phone has not only changed the way we communicate, it has changed the way we work.”

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