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Which is the first ever commercially available cell phone?

Mobile phones are selling in millions now, four decades after the first commercially available cell phone was officially launched. Inerestingly, it is a company which is still producing excellent smartphones right now. Motorola is the brand which produced the first ever commercially available cell phone in the world. It is good to know and remember what was the history behind this booming technology, and how did it all start.

Named as Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, this was the first phone to be offered commercially in the year 1984, and this was after FCC gave the approval from the US FCC on September 21st, 1983. This is a part of the DynaTAC series from Motorola, which was manufactured between 1984 and 1994. DynaTAC was an abbreviation for Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage.

How did this happen?

Motorola was conducting a research on the proposed idea of cellular system, and in 1960, electrical engineer John F. Mitchell became the chief engineer for Motorola, for the mobile communication products. Mitchell’s team, which included Martin Cooper developed the portable cellular telephony and Mitchell was one of the employees in Motorola who got the patent for this work in the year 1973.

The date when the first publicized mobile phone call was made in the world – April 4, 1973 by Martin Cooper.

Interestingly, the first ever call made on the prototype of the portable cellular telephone was to a wrong number.

Martin Cooper, who was the former general manager for the systems division at Motorola, lead a team that made the first ever commercially available cellular phone – the DynaTAC 8000X. They made the first phone call from it, and because of the easy of carrying it and making calls without connecting it with wires, the retail price set for the DynaTAC 8000X was $3995.

Motorola DynaTAC8000X

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DynaTAC8000X.jpg

What did the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X offer?

The phone had a LED display for dialing or recalling one of the 30 numbers that are shown in the history, and it offered 30 minutes of talk time and 8 hours of standby time. On the physical aspect, there were quite a lot of buttons – the numbers, star and hash key, Recall, Clear, Call, End, Lock, Change Volume. The first phone had the British Telecom badge in the bottom. The phone weighed 2.5 pounds, quite heavy for a mobile phone but that was the first. The DynaTAC 8000X was nicknamed “The Brick”.

It measured 228.6x127x44.4 mm and the battery in the phone took 10 hours to charge for giving the talk time.

There were several concepts and phones made after this – DynaTAC 8 Series, Classic, Classic II, Ultra Classic, and Ultra Classic II and these had the red LED displays, while the DynaTAC International series had the green LEDs and the DynaTAC 6000XL came with a vacuum fluorescent display. The 6000XL wasn’t the same phone as the others made before it, because it was a transportable phone which was used for installation in vehicles.

Following this, Motorola was the brand again for making something new – the first flip phone in the world – Motorola MicroTAC. Nothing special in it, except for the cover over the keypad which flips open to expose them. Nokia then entered the race, and it was known for making some of the best most basic cell phones in the world, and some of them hold the tag of being the highest sold mobile phones till date.

By Chetan Bhawani on Monday 16th of Jun 2014


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