Believe it or not, there was actually a time when cell phones were a rare commodity. Not everybody owned a cell phone. However, today it’s pretty hard to imagine a world without these convenient devices. They play an important part in our daily lives and we simply cannot live without the countless benefits they have to offer. Even if you don’t own a cell phone yourself, you will probably come across dozens of people every day, talking on their cell phone. There is no doubt about the fact we adopted these devices at an astounding rate. But who do we owe this all to? Who invented the cell phone and made our lives so much easier?
To give you the answer to that question, we have to delve into history. So, more than a century ago, the telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. Then, some years later a Canadian inventor named Reginald Fessenden, who performed ground-breaking radio experiments, achieved an outstanding feat. On December 23, 1900, he was successful in making the first wireless telephone call by transmitting human voice via radio waves. This was done by sending signals from one radio tower to another, which was truly something remarkable for that era. It was because of Fessenden’s hard work and dedication that broadcast radio came into being.
However, that’s not the only thing he is praised for. In a way, he also provided the groundwork for cell phones and networks to be invented. In 1947, William Rae Young, an engineer at Bell Laboratories, proposed that radio towers could support a telephone network if properly arranged in a hexagonal pattern. And guess what? It did. Young’s design allowed calls to be carried across the network via low-power transmitters. It also led to the idea of handoffs, when a caller moves from the broadcast radius of one tower to another. However, although there was nothing wrong with his theory, the technology to make it possible just wasn’t available yet.
It would take at least 10 years for further developments to come in. In the meantime, though, companies, such as AT&T, provided a few customers radio telephones for their use. Compared to the cell phones we have and use today, these systems were primitive and looked a lot like those walkie-talkies transceivers. The system allowed only a few calls to be made at a time, sometimes even fewer than three calls could be made! There were also times where the caller had to wait for another ongoing conversation to end before they could complete a call. Having private conversations was completely out of the question.
These phones also weighed up to 80 pounds! That’s a lot of weight, so obviously, the device wasn’t something you could easily carry around with you in your pocket. Not to mention, it came at an incredibly expensive price, which meant not everybody could take advantage of what it had to offer. In the 1960s, the technology which could support Young’s theory of a cellular network was finally developed by two engineers named Joel S. Engel and Richard H. Frenkiel. Both of them also worked at Bell Laboratories, which was a subsidiary of AT&T since the time of Young.
But when AT&T sought permission from the FCC to develop a cellular network, a bold move was made by one of their rivals, it was Martin Cooper. At that time, he worked as an executive in Motorola, who was one of AT&T’s biggest rivals. Cooper was the head of the team that invented the first cell phone, called the Motorola DynaTAC. However, yet it wasn’t a small device as it weighed 2.5 pounds and was 9 inches long! So, who was the first call made to and by whom? One of the first cell phone calls was made by Cooper, where he called his rival Joel Engel at Bell Laboratories.
Yes, in a way, the first cell phone was used to, what many refer to as, a prank call. Hilarious isn’t it? That surely must have caught Engel by surprise! From here onwards, cell phones took several more years to become a viable commercial product. But after over a century of extensive research, development and what not, it can be safely said the significant investment we have made has finally paid off in the form modern cell phones and reliable cellular networks.
Written by Lance W.