Handheld Cellular Phone

Motorola

Invented first handheld cellular phone, growing to serve 2/3 of the global market (5 billion people)

Cooper led the movement at Motorola to make cellular communications personal and mobile. Thanks to the efforts he championed in the 1970s and 1980s—culminating in the world’s first commercial handheld cell phone—an entire industry emerged and billions of people are connected today.

In the 1970s, Cooper headed Motorola’s communications systems division where he conceived of the first portable cellular phone and led the 10-year process of bringing it to market. He believed the cellular phone should be “…a personal telephone – something that would represent an individual so you could assign a number; not to a place, not to a desk, not to a home, but to a person.”

On April 3, 1973, before the formal introduction of the cell phone to the press by Cooper and Motorola leader John F. Mitchell, Cooper made the first public handheld cell phone call. Standing on Sixth Avenue in New York, he made the call from the prototype DynaTAC phone. It connected him to a base station Motorola had installed on the roof of the Burlington House (now the Alliance Bernstein Building) and into the AT&T landline telephone system. Reporters and onlookers watched as he dialed the number of his chief competitor, Dr. Joel S. Engel, at AT&T. “Joel, this is Marty. I’m calling you from a cell phone, a personal, portable, l handheld  cell phone.”  

That first cell phone vividly illustrated the now accepted principle that phone calls could be to a person rather than to a place.