The History of Cell Phones – A Vision Realized

Samuel Morse was a man of vision. His vision, his dreams, have become the paving stones for what is now known as the information superhighway. The leading technology in the creation and progress of this telecommunication spectacle is the cell phone and its derivatives. So you may wonder how we got from Samuel Morse to where we are today…and where we’re going tomorrow. To ease your curiosity, following is a history of cell phones. Sit back, relax and enjoy.

Samuel Morse invents the telegraph

Any history of cell phones starts with Samuel Morse. He conceived of an electromagnetic telegraph in 1832 and constructed an experimental version in 1835. Then, on October 18, 1842, Morse laid wires between Governor's Island and Castle Garden, New York, a distance of about a mile. Part of that circuit was under water because Morse wanted to show that an underwater cable could transmit signals as well as a copper wire suspended on poles. But before he could complete this demonstration a passing ship pulled up his cable, ending, it seemed, his experiment. However, undaunted, Morse proceeded without the cable, passing his telegraph signals through the water itself. This introduced the concept of wireless by conduction. Quite simply, Samuel Morse’s telegraph was the first device to send messages by electricity.

And the ideas started pouring in

So now there was the know-how to send messages. And the possibilities of exactly how to do this were abounding. Now it was known that water could conduct electricity and carry messages, other conductors were sought out.

In 1843, a skilled analytical chemist by the name of Michael Faraday began exhaustive research into whether space could indeed conduct electricity, using the principles already established by telegraphy.

In 1864, James Clerk Maxwell released his paper "Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field" which concluded that light, electricity, and magnetism, were all related. All of these worked hand in hand, and all electromagnetic phenomena traveled in waves.

Then, in 1865, Dr. Mahlon Loomis of Virginia, a dentist, may have been the first person to communicate through wireless via the atmosphere. Between 1866 and 1873 he transmitted telegraphic messages at a distance of 18 miles between the tops of Cohocton and Beorse Deer Mountains in Virginia. He developed a method of transmitting and receiving messages by using the Earth's atmosphere as a conductor and launching kites enclosed with copper screens that were linked to the ground with copper wires.

Over the next thirty years, most inventors and developers concentrated on wire line telegraphy, suspending wires between poles, which eventually became what we know as telephone poles. Few tinkered exclusively with wireless since a basic radio theory had not yet been worked out. Several experiments conducted on a trial and error basis produced no results. Telegraphy, however, did produce a good understanding of wireless by induction since wires ran parallel to each other and often induced rogue currents into other lines. So now they knew that electromagnetic messages could travel through the air.

And the cell phone is born

We’ll now fast-forward a bit in our history of cell phones. The principles necessary to send messages had been set. And then along came another man with a vision – Martin Cooper, known by many as the father of the cellular phone. Hired by Motorola in 1954, Mr. Cooper worked on developing portable products, including the first portable handheld police radios, made for the Chicago police department in 1967. He then led Motorola's cellular research.

In the meantime, AT&T's research arm, Bell Laboratories, introduced the idea of cellular communications in 1947. But Motorola and Bell Labs in the sixties and early seventies were in a race to incorporate the technology into portable devices.

Martin Cooper won that race! Cooper set up a base station in New York with the first working prototype of a cellular telephone, the Motorola Dyna-Tac (see picture below). After some initial testing in Washington for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Mr. Cooper and Motorola took the phone technology to New York to show the public.

On April 3, 1973, at a public demonstration and using a heavy 30-ounce phone, Martin Cooper placed the first cell phone call to his rival at AT&T Bell Labs from the streets of New York City. Mr. Cooper commented, "As I walked down the street while talking on the phone, sophisticated New Yorkers gaped at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call. Remember that in 1973, there weren't cordless telephones or cellular phones. I made numerous calls, including one where I crossed the street while talking to a New York radio reporter - probably one of the more dangerous things I have ever done in my life."

First Cell Phone (1973): Motorola Dyna-Tac
Size: 9 x 5 x 1.75 inches
Weight: 2.5 pounds
Display: None
Number of Circuit Boards: 30
Talk time: 35 minutes
Recharge Time: 10 hours
Features: Talk, listen, dial

This first cell phone call caused a fundamental technology and communications market shift toward the person and away from the place. It also created another vision for Martin Cooper. His vision was for personal wireless communications. "People want to talk to other people - not a house, or an office, or a car. Given a choice, people will demand the freedom to communicate wherever they are, unfettered by the infamous copper wire. It is that freedom we sought to vividly demonstrate in 1973," he said.

Martin Cooper started the 10-year process of bringing the portable cell phone to market. Motorola introduced the 16-ounce "DynaTAC" phone into commercial service in 1983, with each phone costing the consumer $3,500. It took seven additional years before there were a million subscribers in the United States. Today, there are more cellular subscribers than wireline phone subscribers in the world, with mobile phones weighing as little as 3 ounces.

What’s the next development?

With wireless number and home-to-cell phone portability now live, wireless dominance is now inevitable. Over the next few years, your telephone number can be just as important to you as your social security number - you may only need one. Expect in the next few years the idea of area codes to lose its importance of identifying the city and state you live in. Change states, keep your number. Move 10 times, keep your number!

Other progressive changes will occur. For example, reception areas will increase – worldwide. The concept of anytime minutes will no longer exist. Several technological improvements with the phone itself will help cut the landline cord. Imagine this:

  • A cell phone will be more like a PDA, with large address books, calendars and the like.
  • Internet access ability - DSL on a phone? Broadband through a cell phone is coming.
  • Cell phones interact with appliances. Forget to start the dishwasher? Set it with your phone.
  • Store files and documents - your cell phone is now a desktop computer.

And this completes the current history of cell phones. But history is being written daily. Technological advances are going to seem overwhelming. But hang in there! You can participate in the history of cell phones.

About The Author

Gareth Marples is a successful freelancer writer who provides valuable tips and advice to mobile consumers looking to purchase the best cell phone to suit their individual needs. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

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