The First Cellular Phone, and It was Big!

DynaTAC is a series of cellular telephones manufactured by Motorola, Inc. from 1983 to 1994. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X commercial portable cellular phone received approval from the U.S. FCC on September 21, 1983. A full charge took roughly 10 hours, and it offered 30 minutes of talk time. It also offered an LED display for dialing or recall of one of 30 phone numbers. It was priced at $3,995 in 1984, its commercial release year, equivalent to $9,831 in 2019. DynaTAC was an abbreviation of “Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage.”  It weighed 1.75 lb., stood 13 in. high.

Several models followed, starting in 1985 with the 8000s, and continuing with periodic updates of increasing frequency until 1993’s Classic II. The DynaTAC was replaced in most roles by the much smaller Motorola MicroTAC when it was first introduced in 1989, and by the time of the Motorola StarTAC’s release in 1996, it was obsolete.

Martin Cooper of Motorola made the first publicized handheld mobile phone call on a prototype DynaTAC model on April 3, 1973. This is a reenactment in 2007.

The first cellular phone was the culmination of efforts begun at Bell Labs, which first proposed the idea of a cellular system in 1947, and continued to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for channels through the 1950s and 1960s, and research conducted at Motorola. In 1960, electrical engineer John F. Mitchell became Motorola’s chief engineer for its mobile communication products. Mitchell oversaw the development and marketing of the first pager to use transistors.

Motorola had long produced mobile telephones for cars that were large and heavy and consumed too much power to allow their use without the automobile’s engine running. Mitchell’s team, which included Martin Cooper, developed portable cellular telephony, and Mitchell was among the Motorola employees granted a patent for this work in 1973; the first call on the prototype was completed, reportedly, to a wrong number.

While Motorola was developing the cellular phone itself, during 1968–1983, Bell Labs worked on the system called AMPS, while others designed cell phones for that and other cellular systems. Martin Cooper, a former general manager for the systems division at Motorola, led a team that produced the DynaTAC 8000x, the first commercially available cellular phone small enough to be easily carried, and made the first phone call from it. Martin Cooper was the first person to make an analog cellular mobile phone call on a prototype in 1973.

 

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