Cellphone turns 40 today
Happy 40th birthday, cellphone: you are officially middle-aged today, though you still manage to cling to us like a needy baby.
On this day in 1973, Martin Cooper stood on a street corner in New York City and made the first handheld wireless phone call. Cooper, a Motorola engineer, called his counterpart at Bell, where work on a rival technology was underway.
That simple publicity stunt launched the era of mobile technology we find ourselves in today, for better or worse.
The phone was clunky: it was 10 inches long and weighed 2.5 pounds. It was called the DynaTAC. It took 10 years to hit the commercial market, and stayed there until the early 1990s.
Cooper is now in his 80s and still a giant in Silicon Valley. On Wednesday, he was honoured with the 2013 Marconi Prize, which recognizes advancements in the field of communications and was named after radio pioneer and Nobel laureate Guglielmo Marconi.
In a statement released by the Marconi society, Cooper is quoted as saying that working for Motorola was the best thing that ever happened to him. "We had one over-riding belief: that people are inherently mobile," he says.
Cooper made his first foray into wireless technology when the Chicago police department asked him to make their radio systems better. He came up with a system that allowed officers to use handheld, portable devices instead of in-car systems.
Interestingly, in a 2012 interview with Cisco Systems, Cooper says that cellphones today are "essentially useless" since so many different things have been piled into them.
"For the most part, almost everything that they have put onto a smartphone you can do elsewhere in a much more effective way. You can take better pictures with a separate camera. You can send your email and read it more conveniently on a computer. You can text. The only real advantage is the fact that you only have to carry one thing with you."
"All these other things turn out to be conveniences but not nearly as revolutionary as just connecting people."
Kate Allen is the Star's science and technology reporter. Find her online at @katecallen.