John Mitchell, Dr. Martin Cooper, and the Cell Phone

john mitchell dr martin cooper

Cell phones are easily an indispensable part of modern society, used by nearly every generation from grade school kids to grandparents. Certain businesses rely on them to keep the doors of communication open between clients, staff and management. Families often depend on them as a means of keeping in touch with one another during the day, or at any time when away from one another. A cell phone is invaluable in a crisis or emergency situation when a phone call for help can literally be the difference between life and death. In general, a cell phone is a way to keep in touch with friends, no matter where they are. Not too long ago, however, the cell phone was considered a thing of the imagination. It was considered by many to be a far-fetched device straight out of science fiction movies. Society's introduction to the cell phone, and the journey that it has taken from a thing of fantasy to a very real and important part of life, is an interesting one. The best way to fully appreciate it is to learn about the people, events, and changes that made it what it is today.

John Mitchell

John Francis Mitchell was a man of vision who was influential in the creation of wireless devices. One of his most recognizable contributions to technology, particularly wireless technology, was the role that he played in making the development of the first cell phone possible. He was an electronics engineer who would eventually become the president and the chief operating officer of Motorola during the 1980s. During the 1970s, before becoming the company's president and COO, Mitchell was the mobile and portable products chief engineer. While serving in this capacity he oversaw the development and the introduction of the first of the transistor pagers. He continued his work in wireless, portable technology by working with a team to create the first cell or mobile phone that was not a vehicle-dependent mobile phone. At the time, Motorola produced mobile car phones; however, they required the power of a car's running engine to function. Mitchell headed a team that would design, create and patent the first portable cell phone device. Their patent for this device was obtained in 1973. Mitchell died of cancer in 2009.

Dr. Martin Cooper

Dr. Martin Cooper is the man most often credited with creating the cell phone. His career at Motorola began in 1954, but his greatest accomplishment did not occur until the 1970s. While heading the car phone division at Motorola, Cooper became interested in developing a portable device that would not be restricted to vehicles. He has been known to credit the television program Star Trek as a source of inspiration for this idea. While working under John Mitchell, he and his team were able to come up with a prototype after only 90 days by holding a contest among Motorola engineers in 1972. In addition to playing a major role in its conception and development, he was also the person to place the first ever phone call on a portable, wireless device. The now famous call was placed in New York City on April 3, 1973 to a competitor at a division of AT&T known as Bell Labs.

The Cell Phone

Following Dr. Cooper's public trial call using the prototype phone, it would take another ten years for its first commercial sale. The first phone made for the public was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. This first phone was significantly different than the phones of today. Unlike modern phones that weigh as little as 4 ounces, the DynaTAC 8000X weighed in at a hefty 2.5 pounds. That, along with its size 13x1.75x3.5 inches, earned this first cell phone the nickname "the Brick." The size and weight of the phone were not the only characteristics that differed from modern, slim phones. Talk time on the original phone typically lasted only a half an hour, and the cost was $3995. This cost did not include the cost of operation, which involved a monthly fee and per-minute charges.

The first flip phone was also released by Motorola, several years later in 1989. It was also the first phone small enough to fit in one's pocket. Part of the reason for the smaller size was the placement of hardware in the section of the phone that flipped open or closed. 1992 brought the Motorola International 3200, which was the first cell phone with 2G technology. In 1997, Philips introduced one of the first attempts at a smart phone, which was called the Synergy. It allowed the users to access the Internet, faxes, and e-mails. In the same year, Nokia released the Nokia 9000 Communicator, which had some web accessibility, a QWERTY keyboard, and an LCD screen. The external antenna that had been a staple feature was no longer visible on the Nokia 8810, which was released in 1998. This was the first phone without the external antenna, which made cell phones easier to handle and more attractive. More features that have since become standard began to appear seemingly with each year. In 1999, picture messaging became possible with the release of the Nokia 3210. 1999 also saw the integration of GPS navigation on a phone, and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) was incorporated into a cell phone for the first time as well. Cameras were added to cell phone technology in 2000 with the J-SH04 by Sharp; however, the first camera phone to be sold in the U.S. was from Sanyo. In 2002, several different PDAs began adding phone support. The Apple iPhone was introduced in 2007. This smart phone revolutionized the cell phone with a touchscreen.

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