Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first cell phone call. Martin Cooper, an engineer with Motorola, made the call from 54th Street in Manhattan with a 9” tall, 2.5 pound monstrosity he called a DynaTAC (DYNamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage). The device looked much like a walkie-talkie; originally a military invention which served as inspiration for Cooper and fellow engineer Rudy Krolopp. Calls could only last for 35 minutes, and the phone took 10 hours to recharge. It also cost roughly $4,000; an astronomical price even by today’s standards.
Perhaps the phone’s cost and cumbersome nature prevented it from getting into the hands of anyone outside the most affluent homes. Cell phone usage in the U.S. didn’t reach 1 million until 1990. It wasn’t until after the start of the 21st century that cell phones became more commonplace. I got my first cell phone in October 2001.
For younger folks, it’s difficult to imagine life without cell phones. Then again, it’s difficult for me to imagine life without air conditioning. Cell phones have to rank as one of the greatest modern inventions. They’ve saved countless lives and allowed people to communicate more rapidly than any time in human history. They’ve also proved to be one of the greatest annoyances – especially if you get cut off by someone driving and talking on their cell phone at the same time! Ah – the price for convenience.