Flashback 1973: First “Mobile Telephone” Call

Back in April of 1973 when Martin Cooper made the first public call on a handheld cellular phone while walking down a New York City street, few could have imagined that the Motorola DynaTAC “brick” phone (shown here in prototype form) would evolve into a super-slim, do-everything pocket computer—a.k.a. the smartphone we take for granted today.

Cooper, then general manager of Motorola’s communications system division and inventor of the portable handset, called Dr. Joel S. Engel, his rival and then head of research at Bell Labs. Passers-by were apparently bewildered when he held the massive device to his ear and started talking. We don’t know what Cooper and Engel talked about but we do know that the “brick” was 9 inches long, weighted 2 ½ pounds, and took 10 hours to charge.

In the photo below, John F. Mitchell, then Motorola vice president and chief engineer who worked with Cooper, shows off the DynaTAC prototype portable in 1973.

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