Skip to main content

It’s 50 years to the day since the first cell phone call

It’s 50 years to the day since American engineer Marty Cooper stepped out onto New York City’s Sixth Avenue to make the first-ever cell phone call.

As you can imagine, the phone was like a brick and would’ve given Mr. Cooper a decent workout as he held the hefty device up to his ear.

Old cell phones
Marty Cooper with a prototype of the DynaTAC 8000X. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Recounting the historic first call in an interview last year, Cooper, now 94, described how he had to get the number from his paper notebook before punching it into the phone’s keypad.

Cooper, who worked for Motorola at the time, thought it would be amusing to make the first call to Joel Engel, his counterpart at rival company Bell Laboratories (then the research division of AT&T and now part of Nokia).

“I said, ‘Hi Joel, it’s Marty Cooper … I’m calling you on a cell phone, a real cell phone. A personal, handheld, portable cell phone.’ Silence at the other end of the line.”

Cooper said the pair ended up having a “nice conversation” during that first mobile call, but he added that in the years that followed, Engel always claimed to have no recollection of the chat. “I guess I don’t blame him,” Cooper quips in the interview.

Cooper told the BBC recently that Bell had been pouring its efforts into developing a car-based phone instead. “Could you believe that?” the engineer said. “We’d been trapped in our homes and offices by this copper wire for over 100 years, and now they were going to trap us in our cars.”

But it took another 11 years to release Cooper’s phone as a commercial mobile device. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, which had no messaging or camera features and could only make calls, cost the equivalent of around $12,000 in today’s money, putting it well out of reach of most people. The device was 10 inches (25 centimeters) long, weighed 1.7 pounds (about 770 grams), and offered a mere 35 minutes of talk time. Charging it took 10 hours.

Technology has thankfully moved on (check out these old phone ads to see what we mean), and making a call no longer requires straining parts of your body to bring the phone to your face.

But in an interview last month, Cooper said he believed another big change was coming to mobile phones, suggesting that before long we’ll have the device “embedded under the skin near your ear” for even easier calls. Though, really, who uses their phone to make calls anymore?

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Best Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 deals: How to get the phone for free
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 display.

Topping our list of the best folding phones, you can't go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 if you want a super stylish yet practical phone that stands out from the crowd. However, it's an expensive phone so if you want to see how you can save on your purchase, keep reading. We've got everything you need to know about all the best Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 deals going on right now across the internet. Let's get straight to how you could save including discounts, trade-ins, and much more.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 deals at Samsung

Samsung offers a free storage upgrade with select Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 devices so you get 512GB of storage instead of 256GB. It's also possible to get up to $1,000 trade-in credit depending on the phone you're trading in.

Read more
Xfinity iPhone 15 deals: Get the latest iPhone with these offers
The Home Screen on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Those iPhone 15 announcements were truly something, weren't they? Exciting news for anyone looking to upgrade to the newest iPhone, and it opened the floodgates for a ton of excellent iPhone deals, older models included, and iPhone 15 deals, specifically. The problem with so many deals available is that you have to sift through a lot of the noise if you're looking for something from a particular wireless carrier or one of the many new models in particular. This guide quickly breaks down the best Xfinity iPhone 15 deals available to you all in one place. Let's dive in.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max -- save up to $830 with eligible trade-in
You can get up to $830 off the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone Pro MAX, applied to your wireless account over 24 months, with an eligible trade-in. You'll also need to activate a new Xfinity Mobile Line within 30 days of purchase.

Apple iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus -- Free with eligible trade-in
Right now, you can get up to $400 off instantly and then the rest of the cost of an iPhone 15 or 15 Plus -- bringing it down to free -- with an eligible trade-in. Credits are applied to your monthly bill over the course of 24 months.

Read more
Best Google Pixel 7a deals: Get Google’s budget phone for free
The Google Pixel 7a face down on a table.

The Google Pixel 7a is a popular smartphone option amongst Android users, and it puts a lot of features in your pocket at a fairly reasonable price as smartphones go. Still, it’s almost always worth hunting for some savings when it comes to tech, and the Pixel 7a is a device that often turns up some deals. There are a lot of options out there for pocketing some savings on the Google Pixel 7a. We’ve tracked down the best places to buy the Google Pixel 7a for you, so read onward for more details on the best Google Pixel 7a deals.
Google Pixel 7a deals at Amazon

Amazon doesn’t carry the Google Pixel 7a for specific carriers, but you can buy an unlocked model here. And while it isn’t currently seeing a discount, Amazon has a range of used models to choose from. Used models in Like New condition are available for as little as $409. You’ll need to double check return policies and warranty information if you choose to buy used from Amazon, as they’re likely to be different from seller to seller.

Read more