The Mobile Phone

It is estimated that there are 6.8 billion cell phone subscriptions in the world.  There are an estimated 7 billion people in the world.(, More people around the world have cell phones then ever had land lines,Tim Fernholz, 2/13/17)  So about 95% of people in the world have a cell phone subscription.  Now some people in more developed countries might have more than one.  And some people in less developed countries will not have one.  How did we get to this point where almost everyone in the world has a cell phone?  With this post we hope to explore the beginnings of the mobile phone and let people learn about how the technology has evolved.

In 1926 Karl Arnold created a cartoon about the use of mobile phones that was published in the German satirical magazine Simplicissimus.

“Wireless Telephony” Published in Simplicissimus in 1926 by Karl Arnold 

Then in 1931 Erich Kastner, in his children’s book titled “The 35th of May, or Conrad’s ride to the South Sea” wrote about a Utopia of mobile phones:

“A gentleman who rode along the sidewalk in front of them, suddenly stepped off the conveyor belt, pulled a phone from his coat pocket, spoke a number into it and shouted: “Gertrude, listen, I’ll be an hour late for lunch because I want to go to the laboratory. Goodbye, sweetheart!” Then he put his pocket phone away again, stepped back on the conveyor belt, started reading a book…”

In 1958 Arthur C Clarke envisioned a “personal transceiver, so small and compact that every man carries one.  The time will come when we will be able to call a person anywhere on Earth merely by dialing a number.” Clarke thought that this device would also include means of global positioning so “no one need ever again be lost”  He thought this would happen in the 1980s.(Arthur C. Clarke: Profiles of the Future 1962, rev. eds. 1973, 1983, and 1999, Millennium edition with a new preface)


In 1946 AT&T introduced Mobile Telephone Service (MTS) in St Louis, Missouri.  It was set up in 100 towns and highway corridors by 1948.  They had 5,000 customers placing 30,000 calls per week.  Calls were put through by an operator and the user had to hold a button on the handset to talk and let go of the button to listen, similar to a walkie-talkie.  The equipment weighed about 80 pounds.  There was only 3 radio channels available so only 3 customers could make a call at any given time (Gordon A. Gow, Richard K. Smith Mobile and wireless communications: an introduction, McGraw-Hill International, 2006 ISBN 0-335-21761-3 page 23).  This service was very expensive.  It cost about 15$ per month and 0.30-0.40$ per call.  Which is equivalent to 176$ per month and 3.50$-4.75$ per call in 2012.( 1946: First Mobile Telephone Call”. AT&T Intellectual Property. 2011. Retrieved 2012-04-24.)

Handset for Bell Systems MTS circa 1946 

In 1965 AT&T introduced an improved system called Improved Mobile Telephone Service or IMTS.  This allowed more simultaneous calling in an area.  It made it possible for the customer to dial the number eliminating the operator, and it reduced the size and weight of the equipment needed.  They only offered this to 40,000 customers nationwide.  For example in New York City, 2,000 customers shared only 12 radio channels and usually had to wait up to 30 minutes to make a call.( “1946: First Mobile Telephone Call”. AT&T Intellectual Property. 2011. Retrieved 2012-04-24.)

Read our next post which will be released tomorrow morning to learn about the more modern mobile phones.

IMTS Mobile Car Phone circa 1965

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One thought on “The Mobile Phone

  1. I had no idea! Thanks for the history lesson. I thought phones were around a lot longer than that.
    Thanks for bringing this to the party! Click on a few links and tell them, “Susie sent me,” and they should click back here!

    Liked by 1 person

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