The Modern Mobile Phone


Before 1973 most mobile phone telephony was limited to phones installed in cars or other vehicles(See Amos Joel patent 3,663,762.) like a tractor or a train.  Martin Cooper who was a researcher and executive for Motorola, helped create the first handheld mobile phone.  On April 3, 1973 Martin made the first mobile phone call from handheld subscriber equipment, calling Joel S. Engle of Bell Labs, his main competition.( Shiels, Maggie (21 April 2003). “BBC interview with Martin Cooper”. BBC News.)  The phone that he used weighed about 2.5 pounds, 9 inches long, 5 inches deep, and 1.5 inches wide.  You could only talk on it for 30 minutes and it took 10 hours to charge.( “Martin Cooper-The Inventor of the Cell Phone”. Retrieved 23 March 2012.)  It is funny how now those times have flipped.  It takes about 30 minutes to charge your phone and you can talk on it for 10 hours.

Martin Cooper photographed in 2007 with his 1973 handheld mobile phone prototype

There are 4 generations of mobile phones, 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G.  1G or analogue cellular was rolled out in North America in 1983.  It was called the Advanced Mobile Phone System or AMPS.  It helped drive the mass market usage of cell phones but had some problems.  One of the main problems was it was unencrypted.  People could but in on your conversation using a scanner.  In March of 1983 the DynaTAC 8000X mobile phone was launched on the first US 1G network.  It cost 100$ to develop and took over 10 years to get to market.  You could talk on it for 35 minutes and it still took 10 hours to recharge.  Despite the weight and length of talk times, the waiting list was in the thousands. ( “This Is the Original Mobile Phone Design Icon”. Retrieved 21 March 2012.)

Motorola DynaTAC 8000X


2G or digital cellular came around in the 1990’s.  There were two systems that emerged, the European GSM standard and the US developed CDMA standard.  These standards used digital transmissions instead of analog. In 1993 the first smart phone was invented, IBM Simon.  It was a phone, fax, pager and PDA all rolled into one.  It had a calendar, address book, calculator, clock, notepad, email, and a touchscreen keyboard. ( “Cell Phone Generations 1G, 2G, 3G and now 4G – Tech Forums”. 25 August 2010. Retrieved 16 October 2012.)  It had a stylus that you would use to touch the screen.  It could also guess what you were trying to type and would finish the word for you.

The IBM Simon compared to an IPhone

2G was also the generation that the text message was introduced.  The first person to person text message was sent in 1993 in Finland.  2G made it possible to download content on to your mobile phone.  The first downloadable content that was sold was a ring tone.  Now there are apps where you can make any song your ringtone.

In 2002 3G or Mobile Broadband was introduced to the market.  Because people began to utilize mobile phones in their daily lives, developers realized that the need for data was going to increase.  The main difference between 2G and 3G is the use of packet switching instead of circuit switching, which allows for faster downloads.  The connection speeds of 3G allowed media to live stream content directly to your mobile phone.  By the end of 2007 295 million people were using the 3G network.

4G or Native IP Network is what some phones are using now.  It came around in 2009 because 3G networks were becoming overwhelmed because of the bandwidth intensive apps like streaming media. ( Fahd Ahmad Saeed. “Capacity Limit Problem in 3G Networks”. Purdue School of Engineering. Retrieved 23 April 2010.)  4G is promised of having 10 times the connection speed as 3G.  4G eliminates circuit switching instead utilizing a full IP network.  Voice calls are now treated like any other type of streaming audio media utilizing packet switiching over Internet networks via VoIP.  We will get into VoIP in our next installment.

So now that you know about where the cell phone started, does it make you appreciate your cell phone more?  The cell phone has made all of our lives more convenient and easier.  What is next for the smartphone?  Will they become even smaller?  What new features can they add that will peak people’s interest?  Maybe the IPhone 15 will have a 3D printing option.  We don’t know what is on the horizon but maybe next time don’t say you hate your phone, because we are lucky to have something so advanced in the palm of our hands.

Photo Cred:

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