The Evolution of Mobile Phones From the 1970s to 1990s

Proto mobile phones date back to 1908, when a US patent for a wireless telephone was issued in Kentucky. AT&T engineers invented the first mobile phones in the 1940s. Initially, mobile phones were not really mobile phones. They were two-way radios that allowed people like taxi drivers and emergency services to communicate.

It all changed on April 3rd of 1973, when Motorola executive Martin Cooper made the first handheld cell phone call. He called his rival at Bell Labs. Cooper’s phone weighed just under 2.5 pounds (1.1 kilograms). After a half-hour use, the battery would need to be recharged 10 hours later to be ready for another chat. Mobile phones from this era are often called 0G phones or Zero Generation phones. Six years would pass before the first cellular network – 1G – was launched, only in Tokyo. By 1984, the network had expanded sufficiently to cover the whole of Japan.

The Motorola DynaTAC 800x was developed for $100 million in 1983. It cost around $4,000 and lasted for 30 minutes before dying. People called it a brick because it looked like one. Despite its large size, the phone was considered the most portable. Humans could make calls without wires or portable phone holders for the first time in history.

The second generation of mobile phones wasn’t released until the 1990s. In 1992, IBM released the Simon, the first smartphone. In addition to making phone calls, the phone acted more as a planner. Simon could create task lists and store contacts, but that was it. The device retailed for around $900 and sold close to 50,000 units. Essentially, Simon paved the way for many smartphones to follow.

#1 A man using a mobile telephone in an automobile, 1954.

#2 Jeanne Bauer walks with a DynaTAC on 6th Avenue in New York, accompanied by John Mitchell, the Motorola engineer behind the phone, 1973.

#3 The portable radio-telephone was a precursor to the mobile phone. It worked by dialing into telephone systems.

The portable radio-telephone was a precursor to the mobile phone. It worked by dialing into telephone systems.

Here, a model displays a set at the “Communications Today, Tomorrow and the Future” exhibition at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, 1973.

#4 John Mitchell with his phone on the streets of New York. He helped develop the design for the first mobile phone, 1973.

#5 An early mobile phone used by a reporter, Kensington, London, 1983.

#6 British actress Suzanne Danielle sharing a joke with two policemen while they examine one of the then-newly legal mobile phones in the United Kingdom, 1983.

#7 Don Johnson as Detective James “Sonny” Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas as Detective Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs—and a mobile phone, 1984.

#8 A model poses with a phone at the launch of the Cellnet cellular radio system mobile phone service in London,1985.

#9 Tom Selleck, playing private investigator Thomas Magnum, makes a mobile phone call from the beach in the TV series “Magnum PI.” 1985.

#11 A young businessman with a brief case goes over figures on a giant old cell phone, 1990.

#12 The phones were slimmer, if not still big, by the early ’90s.

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Written by Jacob Aberto

Sincere, friendly, curious, ambitious, enthusiast. I'm a content crafter and social media expert. I love Classic Movies because their dialogue, scenery and stories are awesome.

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