When “a little company in Chicago” invented the cellular phone
Loren Feldman reshared a Verge interview on Google+, and as a former Motorola employee it was certainly interesting to me. In the interview, Chris Ziegler talked with Marty Cooper, who was involved with the creation of two notable phones – the DynaTAC, and the Jitterbug.
In this post, I’ll talk about the former. Even though back in 2010 I promised that I’d write a follow-up on the Jitterbug.
Cooper discussed a number of topics in the interview, but this is (some of) what he said about the DynaTAC:
I’m proud of having conceived of the first cellphone, but the idea of why that was done was much more a sense of pride. That was we had to beat AT&T — we had to beat the monopoly. And remember, that wasn’t the same AT&T as today. We took on, this little company in Chicago, took on the biggest company in the world by every measure. And we beat ’em. If AT&T had won and they would still be a monopoly — by the way, that’s starting to happen again, and I hope that doesn’t happen….
[H]ow could you ever imagine that in my lifetime there would be tens of millions of transistors in a cellphone? And doing all the things you could do with that computing power. It happened gradually enough so that I don’t think there was any moment of surprise, but I’m still amazed….
So we had been struggling with this drain thing, and even with that, the DynaTAC had a battery life of 20 minutes, 20 minutes of talking. And it took the best technology available to make that happen, and now we complain if you can’t get two days, and instead of running a couple thousand transistors, you’re running 10 or 20 million transistors. Quite incredible.
I strongly encourage you the read the rest of the interview, which includes more AT&T bashing (both the old and the new AT&T), some pre-cellphone stuff, and observations on Bob Galvin, Chris Galvin, Sanjay Jha, Google, and others.