Happy 40th birthday, cellphone! Yes, it was 40 years ago on April 3, 1973, that Martin Cooper, a Motorola engineer, made the first successful cellphone call.
My colleague, Karen Field, told the story of that first call in one of the many articles celebrating the 40th anniversary of EE Times which is also this year. The big brick cellphone was a triumph of semiconductor and systems design at the time. She notes the somewhat unsung enginner "Don Linder figured out how to combine some 300 to 400 parts together into a working phone."
I don’t see a midlife crisis in the works for this device. Quite the contrary, we are still in the midst of a mobile boom that has not yet hit its peak, transforming our industry and our lives.
The amazing feats of chip and systems engineering just keep happening. They have given us the superphones so many of use depend on every day to keep in touch with the world via voice, text, music and video.
Today we live in an industry fueled by the mobile business and its siblings the cloud network and the data center. Incidentally, next month it will be the 40th anniversary of Bob Metcalfe’s memo seen as the birthday of Ethernet, the core technology of the cloud and data center.
I invite you to take a moment out of the rushed pace of our now mobile lives and give the story of the first cellphone a read. Then I’d invite you to reflect for a moment about where we have been and where we are going and weigh in with your thoughts.
What technologies are being demonstrated today that may look like big ugly bricks but could reshape the world when they mature? What will the cellphone look like when it is ready for retirement in say another 40 years?
BTW, in 2008 another colleague, Rich Nass, did a video interview with Cooper at the former Embedded Systems Conference (now Design West). You can see that video here, or check out many other interviews with Marty on YouTube--maybe even watch one on your smartphone.
A personal reminiscence:
I was oblivious to the first 15 years of the cellphone.
In 1988, I was a tech reporter in Hong Kong, noticing the CT2 (cordless telephone, second generation) handsets. They could call out but not receive calls, so users also wore a pager. Later models had integrated pagers and were the object of conspicuous consumption for messengers.
When I returned to the US in 1993 my realtor had a car phone. I thought, "what a luxury!"
Within six years I was issued a Nokia 3210 candy bar handset, my first work phone. I thought I died and went to heaven. A phone in my pocket!
A few years back I was upgraded to a Blackberry--email at my fingertips--Wow!
Now I carry an iPhone 3G--the Web in my pocket.
Along the way fortunes have been made and lost. Cities of Foxconn assemblers have emerged in China. And now China is making its own cellphones and cellphone chips as my colleague Junko Yoshida writes on a weekly basis.
Happy 40th Anniversary to both EE Times and Cellular Technology.
I can't help agreeing with the importance of system engineering as the cellular technology is invented. With a system perspective, technology will go to next level and more products can be build better and faster. One of the many great features of cellular technology is frequency reused. The system capacity can be increased by shrinking the size and shape of a cell. What a brilliant idea. Today, some of the key features of the cloud based technology is data redundancy and all-on service availability. Both can be achieved by leveraging different OS services, DNS, Apache Cassandra. I am with Rick. I am looking forward to what the world is like when all these great technologies invented in the 70s' are towards the retirement age.
Thank you, Rick for the article and video.