50 years ago Martin Cooper made the first call with a mobile phone

50 years ago Martin Cooper made the first call with a mobile phone


03 April 2023

It was April 3, 1973 when Martin Cooper stood on a 6th Avenue sidewalk in New York City with a brick-sized device in his hands to make the first public call from a cell phone. In fact, that call was destined for one of Motorola's biggest rivals at the time, Bell Labs chief Joel S. Engel.

I'm calling you from a cell phone, an actual cell phone, a personal, hand-held, portable cell phone.

Although it took another decade before the launch of the first commercially available cell phone, it was a given that history was being made that day on 6th Avenue Street in Manhattan.

In the 50 years since then, the mobile phone has evolved from a bulky device into an indispensable and powerful aid to the daily lives of people around the world, with capabilities beyond the imagination of the industry's pioneers. However, Martin Cooper, now 94 years old, says he is not surprised that everyone owns a mobile phone.

We used to tell a story that one day when you were born you would be credited with a phone number. If you don't answer the call, then you die.

Several months before the first call, Motorola was scrambling to catch up with Bell Labs to get Bell Labs ready with a cell phone first. Then, however, there were long delays from the relevant regulators, especially the FTC, which was looking for the best way to distribute the frequencies so as not to hurt competition.

For the record, the first commercially available cell phone was the 1983 Motorola DynaTAC 8000X which cost $3900 at the time (about $11000 by today's standards), had a battery life of only 35 minutes, weighed 1.1kg and took 10 hours to fully charge.

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