The first cell phone call was made by Martin Cooper (born December 26, 1928), a researcher at Motorola, on April 3, 1973. Cooper was working on developing the first handheld mobile phone, which he called the DynaTAC. The phone was large and bulky, weighing about 2.5 pounds, and it had a battery life of only about 20 minutes of talk time.

April 3 story of what happened this day in Science, Technology, Astronomy, and Space Exploration history.

The first cell phone call ever

On that day, Cooper stood on a street corner in New York City and called his rival, Joel Engel, who was also working on developing mobile phones for AT&T. Cooper made the call using the DynaTAC, and Engel was able to hear him clearly on the other end.

The call was a historic moment, marking the beginning of a new era in mobile communications. The first commercial cell phones were not available until the early 1980s, and they were expensive and primarily used by business executives. However, the development of smaller, more affordable cell phones over the next few decades eventually led to the widespread adoption of mobile phones as essential tools for personal communication.

In 2013, Cooper received the Marconi Prize for his contributions to wireless communications.

The first cell phone call was made by Martin Cooper in 1973
Martin Cooper made the first cell phone call on April 3, 1973. Here is Mr. Cooper with his DynaTAC cell phone, decades later.

Video: The first cell phone call was an epic trolling

During the 1960s and early 1970s, making a phone call required a wired device connected to the telephone grid. However, when AT&T introduced their cellular system for car phones, Dr. Martin “Marty” Cooper and his team at Motorola saw an opportunity to develop a truly wireless mobile phone. They aimed to create a handheld device that would enable people to communicate on the go without being tethered to a wired device.

The first cell phone call was an “epic trolling”. Video by Jim Fabio, additional footage AT&T Archives & History Center.

Mr. Cooper recalls:

“…They [AT&T] invented a concept called cellular telephony. They announced that they were going to ‘set people free’. They were going to cut the wire and the second thing that they said is this service is going to be [for] car telephones.”

“That’s when I had the idea of ‘why don’t we build a cellular system that’s the way it ought to be? Personal, portable.”

“We shut down engineering in the company and put all our efforts into building a handheld, portable cell phone.”

Only three months later, they created a working prototype.

“On April 3, 1973, we actually demonstrated the system in New York. We had a press conference scheduled for the afternoon, but we had been approached by journalists, and I decided: ‘Well, why don’t we give them a real demonstration?’ And a real demonstration would be walking down the street, and that’s exactly what we did.”

“I called Joel Engel. Dr. Engel was running the AT&T [cellular phones] program. I said ‘Hi, Joel, it’s Marty Cooper.’ ‘Hi, Marty, he says.’ ‘I am calling you from a cell phone. But a real cell phone. Personal, handheld, portable.'”

“There was a silence at the end of the line. To this day, Joel doesn’t remember that [the first cell phone call]. And I am not sure if I can blame him.”

April 3 in Science, Technology, Astronomy, and Space Exploration history


M. Özgür Nevres

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