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Meet The Inventor of the First Cell Phone

Meet The Inventor of the First Cell Phone


I’m Martin Cooper, call me Marty. I’m known as the father of the cellphone. My colleagues and I introduced the very first cellphone to the world. From my earliest memories, even when I was a little boy, I was taking things apart. I saw some kids on the street burning
a piece of paper using a magnifying glass. I wanted to do that. I broke a Coke bottle and
tried to make a lens out of it. Failed of course But I always knew I was
going to be an engineer. Well back in the early 70s,
I was with Motorola. We were a leader in
two-way radio business. The radio channels were the basis
of what our business was. AT&T came along and said well,
we’re going to set you free, freedom! Now you’re gonna be trapped in your car
instead of in your home or at your desk. They’d invented a thing
called cellular telephony that was more spectrally efficient. And what that means is you
could have more people talking on every radio channel in a city. And AT&T said they were
gonna do every everything. They were gonna do personal
telephone communications. They were gonna do dispatch the way
the police and fire people work. This is very good,
as far as the FCC was concerned, because then they wouldn’t have to worry
about licensing every single person. They would just give
one license to AT&T and they wouldn’t have to
worry about it anymore. Well we didn’t like that
very much at Motorola. That would have essentially
taken over our business. So we started a battle
with them in the 60s. The battles consisted of filings to
the FCC, hearings in Washington. And around 1972 we heard the FCC
is about to make a decision and we were really worried. We had to get to the attention
of the people in Washington. We had to demonstrate to them that number
one, you didn’t have to have a monopoly. You could have competition. And the second thing is, the idea of building a phone that trapped you in
a car didn’t make any sense to us at all. We believed, and believe still today, that freedom means you can talk anywhere, and we had to show that a personal
portable phone was possible. And the best way to do that
is to actually build one. And that’s what stimulated
building this first cellphone. So here we are on the streets of New York,
on April 3rd, 1973. And I’m with a journalist. And I have to make
an impression on the guy. And I thought you’re not
gonna take a chance and call Joel Engel who’s my counterpart and
my nemesis at AT&T. So I picked up the phone and
I dialed his number. Amazingly he answered I said,
hi Joel, it’s Marty Cooper. Hi Marty, he says. I’m calling you from a cell phone. But a real cellphone. A personal hand-held portable cell phone. Silence on the other end of the line. I suspected he was gritting his teeth. But he was polite, we finished the call, and that was the first public
cellular telephone call. What I felt when that call
worked was a sense of relief. It worked. I didn’t think at all that
this was a historical moment. This phone had literally
thousands of individual parts. This is before the large scale integrated
circuit had been created, the chip. And so we had to solder each of those
individual parts together, we had an engineer standing by in case something broke, because it was totally unreliable. I suspect what Joel felt is what
he still feels today, annoyance. Do I think that the cellphone was
an important creation in history? I think it was one of the crucial things, perhaps as important as
the invention of the wheel. We are still in the infancy of
what we call a cellphone and personal communications. We’re only now learning the kinds of power
that we can build into a cell phone and it will take a couple of
generations before we fulfill the real promise of what a cellphone is. All cellphones today are sub optimal. Think about how unnatural it is
to want to talk to somebody and hold this flat piece of
material up to your head. Doesn’t make any sense at all. But in order to capture everything
that we’re trying to do, we end up with this form factor. So I envision a future in
which the talking part, talking’s never gonna go away, you’re
always gonna want to talk to somebody at some point, and that part may be embedded
under your skin behind your ear, along with a powerful computer
that you can talk to. Someday you’ll be able to think to it and that will be an optimum voice telephone. There will be other devices throughout
your body that will be transmitting your body functions for fitness or
for the health aspects of it. And they will go through what
I call a personal server, the thing that actually communicates
from you to the rest of the world. So the future is starting to come upon us
where they’re working on the software. Getting the software to adapt to people, getting the phone easier to use,
more intuitive and more functional. I became really interested
in artificial intelligence. I think that there are germs of real use of artificial intelligence
are just starting to become practical. So I’m thinking of this question of the
app, how useless having a million apps. I mean, how does a person sort
through a million apps and find the one that’s suitable for
the concept of the app is wrong. If you really had good
artificial intelligence, you would have a servant,
hopefully one that’s smarter than you are, figure out what you need, and
coming up with solutions. We call those solutions apps,
but instead of us looking for the app, the app ought to find us. What do you think of that? Funny isnt it? Does that make sense? I want you to know I’ve
never said that before. Don’t you think that’s a great idea,
obsoleting the app by having something that
creates the app for you. I love that. We created the first portable cell phone
in 1973 and here we are 42 years later, just starting to get into some
of the important features. So all of these things are going
to little by little happen, but they won’t happen unless some of us
keep dreaming about these things, and feeding the way to the future. I would like to be around indefinitely, so that I could see everything
that happens in the future. But I know that’s not gonna happen,
and so my replacement for that is to sit around and
dream about those things and live them in advance of when they happen.

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