Thirty-five years ago today, the first ever public cellular phone call was made by Martin Cooper. Cooper, who invented the portable cell phone, placed that call on April 3, 1973 while he was the general manager of Motorola’s Communications Systems Division. That first call, placed to Cooper’s rival at AT&T’s Bell Labs from the streets of New York City, was the beginning of a revolution that has changed the lives of three billion people worldwide. A cell phone call is a call to a person in contrast with wired phone calls that are to a place.

Martin Cooper

People are mobile,” said Cooper. “Given the choice, people will demand the freedom to communicate wherever they are, unfettered by the infamous copper wire. We vividly demonstrated that freedom back in 1973. In a time when there were no cordless or cellular phones, normally blasé New Yorkers gaped at the sight of me making a phone call while strolling down Lexington Avenue. The first cell phone was mammoth by today’s standards – weighing two and a half pounds and was 10 inches long. The phone could be used for only 20 minutes before the battery died.

Although cell phones and service have come a long way in the past 35 years, Cooper and his wife, Arlene Harris were disappointed that cell phones were becoming unnecessarily complicated for many people. They decided to re-create the cell phone into a device that embraced the same simplicity as the original cell phone; a cell phone without a camera, MP3 player, or Web browser; a cell phone that was optimum for talking and listening.

Harris, herself a wireless and telecom industry veteran who has been referred to as the “First Lady of Wireless” and Cooper created the Jitterbug, a radically different cell phone and cellular service. The Jitterbug is now used by tens of thousands of people throughout the U.S.

Ms. Harris was recently inducted into RCR’s Wireless Hall of Fame – the first female innovator to receive that distinction.

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