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In 40 Years, Cellphones Advanced From Luxury to Necessity

These days, we often take cellphones for granted, but back in 1973 personal wireless communications simply didn’t exist. If you wanted to meet up with someone, you had to actually make plans before you left your house or office and then stick to them, or you’d be screwed.

That all changed on April 3, 1973, when Motorola’s Martin Cooper headed to the New York Hilton to demonstrate his invention to the press. Before entering the building, he stopped outside on the sidewalk to make the first ever cellphone call from his prototype DynaTAC phone. So who did he choose to call on this momentous occasion? President Nixon? The CEO of Motorola? Nah, Cooper called Joel Engel, his number one rival over at competitor AT&T, who had also been working feverishly to develop cellphone technology.

It still took another decade before the DynaTAC phone, aka The Brick, was ready for market. That original model weighed 2.5 pounds, and gave you just 30 minutes of talk time after a staggering 10 hours of charging. Of course, cellphone calls were hideously expensive back then, so you probably wouldn’t want to talk for more than a minute or two anyway. The phone itself cost over $9,000 in today’s dollars, and those special deals you get for signing a two-year contract were still way in the future.

Since then, personal communications has been moving from voice calls to texting and others forms of non-verbal contact. That’s a welcome relief after decades of people yakking away in restaurants and movie theaters.

Thanks Dr Cooper.


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