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  (Source: La Repubblica)
Much has changed, but cell phone inventor Motorola's legacy lives on at new parent Google

It was a spring day much like this one when Martin Cooper used his Motorola DynaTAC cell phone prototype to place a call in downtown Manhattan.  The year was 1973 and it was the third day of April.  The call lasted about 20 minutes and much like today's users, Mr. Cooper suffered a familiar problem -- a drained battery.

I. The First Phone Call -- 40 Years Ago Today

Mr. Cooper recalls, "The first cell phone model weighed over one kilo and you could only talk for 20 minutes before the battery ran out.  Which is just as well because you would not be able to hold it up for much longer."

A fun fact about the call -- as told in a story by The Verge last year -- the famous first call was actually placed to Mr. Cooper's archrival Joel Engel from Bell Systems.  Mr. Engel headed a team that was competing with Mr. Cooper's team at Motorola.  But it was Mr. Cooper's team that perfected cellular technology first, thus ultimately shaping the industry that emerged over the next decade.  Mr. Cooper recalls, "I have to tell you, to this day, he resents what Motorola did in those days."

Motorola Vice President John F. Mitchell shows off the DynaTAC portable radio telephone to reporters in New York City in 1973. [Image Source: IB Times]

The achievement was publicized in this 1973 press release [PDF] that Motorola Mobility's archivists recently dug up.  (Motorola also unearthed a fun media fact sheet [PDF] on the DynaTAC prototype.)

Mr. Cooper and his rival had big dreams for cellular technology, but even these dreamers likely would never imagine the monstrous market force they had created.

II. Starting at $10K, Phone Captivated Electronics Fans in the 1980s

Things started slow.  It took Motorola a decade more to bring its working prototype to market.  One major roadblock was in removing interference concerns.  But the U.S. Federal Communications Commission eventually determined the device -- the Motorola 8000X -- was safe enough to use without interfering with vital defense or airplane signals, allowing the world's first cell phone to hit the market in September, 1983.  

The device was priced at a lofty $3,995 USD (around $10K USD in today's money), but nonetheless soon became a pop culture icon, embraced by trend setters and business elite.  Shows like Saved the Bell helped popularize the device.

That pop culture appeal drove Motorola and its rivals to embark on a tireless path of miniaturization and innovation, a road which would eventually combine the personal computer, digital camera, and cell phone into a single device -- the smartphone.

III. Enter the Smartphone

Forty years later, the cell phone industry is estimated to take in $1.2T USD in revenue for service, apps, and devices, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology.  The mobile phone market is today the lifeblood of technology juggernauts such as Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) and Apple, Inc. (AAPL).  Samsung alone hopes to ship 390 million smartphones this year.

Today, cell phones are an integral part of modern life -- both a blessing and a curse that most people over 13 can't live without.  They're our connection to our family, our connection to our boss, our connection to our friends.

Last year, Google Inc. (GOOG), makers of Android -- the world's most used smartphone operating system -- finished an acquisition of Motorola Mobility.  And while sales of Motorola branded devices appear to be fading into the sunset, the company's inventions will no doubt play a key role both defending Google against lawsuits and in inspiring new ideas: in short, Google has directly inherited Motorola's mantle as leader of the cellular industry.

Cell phone Cooper
Martin Cooper poses with the DynaTAC in this 2003 shot. [Image Source: AP]

As for Mr. Cooper, he's still loyally buying Motorola.  He buys a phone every six months -- last year he was sporting a Motorola Droid RAZR.  He told The Verge
"I'm being sorely tested lately because the phones are coming out so fast. Each time they get a little better, and I think they're pretty much on a par now — if you know how to use them — with the iPhone."

And he's still very much involved in the industry.  He runs the mobile incubator project Dyna LLC, whose name itself pays homage to Mr. Cooper's famous prototype.

IV. What's Next?

Here's an interesting thought to leave you with.  Looking at the evolution of the phone in the last forty years...

Evolution of the mobile phone
[Image Source: La Repubblica] surely must wonder what wonderous devices we'll have at the eightieth anniversary, in 2053.  

What new functions will be merged into this ever expanding Swiss Army knife of the gadget world?  Only time will tell.

Sources: Motorola [Original Press Release], The Verge

Comments     Threshold

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By MadMan007 on 4/3/2013 5:24:36 PM , Rating: 3
By 2053 I fully expect electronic implants will be normal. Resistance is futile!

RE: implants
By Shadowself on 4/3/2013 8:05:50 PM , Rating: 1
Implants? Maybe.

However, I'd expect something more like a lapel pin, lady's broach, wrist band or finger ring for the main unit with the visual part as contacts and a small, virtually invisible ear canal insert for hearing.

The interface will be 99.9% voice, the call quality will be HD Voice or better. The standard data rate will be Gbps or higher and the vast majority of the storage will be cloud based. Positioning down to better than 3 cm will be standard using differential location based upon WiFi, GPS, GLONASS and Galileo.

There will be small accessories for cameras (still and video, with better color and resolution than we have today in typical DSLRs) and other specialty items. Options will include things like personal health monitoring as well as fitness tracking.

RE: implants
By MadMan007 on 4/4/2013 1:15:37 AM , Rating: 2
40 years is way too long for that kind of stuff. I give those 10 years to be maybe higher-end but readily available although they could be common across the entire mobile sector. Depends upon how foundries can scale past 14nm silicon (or the equivalent in some other material.)

RE: implants
By inighthawki on 4/5/2013 11:29:38 PM , Rating: 3
The interface will be 99.9% voice

Eww, please count me out of your imaginary future. I do not want.

RE: implants
By cyberguyz on 4/4/2013 7:01:34 AM , Rating: 2
Wetware is not that far away. Give it another 15 years max.

RE: implants
By MadMan007 on 4/4/2013 7:19:50 AM , Rating: 2
There are a few aspects to it. The simplest is actually the technology, especially if at first it just uses our natural external inputs - that will be the first step, Google Glasses is the obvious example.

True internal implants will be harder to solve for a few reasons. Biology is not as controllable as technology. There could be some very tough roadblocks to overcome that can't be solved easily. Also, internal implants would fall under the area of medical devices and those have very rigorous and long testing. There are some already though that are extensions of existing medical devices - insulin pumps are one. There are some vision implants currently but they are very basic and have been in development for decades.

The final aspect that might slow this down could be the hardest to overcome if there aren't any hard biological game stoppers...societal resistance. It will vary by society but implants open sooo many worm cans and can affect practically everything when you think about applications, it will be interesting to take part in the discussion.

RE: implants
By aliasfox on 4/4/2013 10:36:34 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think we'll have implants, or a useful way to use much of the drastic miniaturization that some are speculating. If we think about how we use our devices these days, it's mostly not about the voice - texting, email, maps, apps, etc all require the use of a screen and some level of input control on that screen. I imagine 40 years from now most people will still have a pocketable communication device with a 3-4" screen for this kind of task - think something with the physical characteristics of a credit card, just a little bigger in each direction.

An auxiliary to the screen-device would be something not too dis-similar to a bluetooth headset for calls and maybe a tiny screen for caller ID/texting purposes - a watch, a HUD on your glasses, or potentially built into the sleeve of your shirt. Each of these would be able to work independently, so if you're going out you could just bring the credit card screen, or if you're in a meeting you would only have your shirt-sleeve screen.

Also, holograms.

RE: implants
By kattanna on 4/4/2013 11:14:58 AM , Rating: 2
By 2053 I fully expect electronic implants

not sure why you would want electronic boobies..but what ever floats your boat

RE: implants
By dragonbif on 4/4/2013 7:19:45 PM , Rating: 2
I am thinking something a little bit more simple... Like the Omni-Tool.

What new feature is possible...?
By Belard on 4/3/2013 4:53:31 PM , Rating: 2
We have pretty much everything... phone, camera, video camera, radio, TV, music player, movie player, internet, computer, productivity... etc..

We need a cell phone you can drive.

RE: What new feature is possible...?
By mosu on 4/3/2013 5:26:01 PM , Rating: 3
Dear Sir,I regretfully inform you that nowadays the smartphone drives us.:)

By cyberguyz on 4/4/2013 7:02:16 AM , Rating: 2
.... Google Maps and GPS.

By Belard on 4/5/2013 10:11:33 PM , Rating: 2
I was referring the ability to replace the automobile.

I thought of this...
By Ytsejamer1 on 4/3/2013 3:33:48 PM , Rating: 4
Am I the first one who thought of Gordon Gecko on the phone?

RE: I thought of this...
By USNman on 4/3/2013 6:31:24 PM , Rating: 2
I turned the movie on...

by 2053
By Captain Awesome on 4/4/2013 8:26:47 AM , Rating: 2
By 2053 we'll have phones than can send faxes, and play music on compact disc.

RE: by 2053
By Belard on 4/5/2013 10:05:50 PM , Rating: 2
I can't wait!

The Mobile Phone Turns 40
By ICPNetworks on 4/16/2013 10:55:38 AM , Rating: 2
We recently created an infographic about the mobile phone turning the big 4-0, we would love to hear everyone's thoughts on it. You can find it here:

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