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The first mobile call was made 46 years ago today

On this date in 1973, a Motorola employee made the very first mobile telephone call on Sixth Avenue in New York City.

Published onApril 3, 2019

motorola dynatac 8000x
  • The first mobile call was made on this date 46 years ago: April 3, 1973.
  • Martin Cooper, a Motorola employee, made the call on Sixth Avenue in NYC. He called a friend who worked for AT&T at the time.
  • Much has changed since that first mobile call, but the excitement for the technology hasn’t died down yet!

On April 3, 1973, Motorola employee Martin Cooper stood on Sixth Avenue in New York City, and did something no one had ever done before — he made a mobile phone call.

To make the call, he used a large, boxy device with an antenna almost as long as the device itself. The phone ended up being the prototype for the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x — the world’s first commercially-available mobile phone (pictured above).

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Who did Cooper call that day? Why, AT&T, who else? Cooper called Joel Engel, who at the time was working at Bell Labs in New Jersey. When pressed on what the conversation was about, Cooper declines to give any kind of memorable sound bite. “‘I’m ringing you just to see if my call sounds good at your end,’ or something to that effect,” he says about probably one of the most significant events in modern tech history.

The Motorola DynaTAC 8000x hit the U.S. market 11 years later in 1984. Its retail price was a staggering $3,995 (about $9,573 adjusted for inflation), which all but assured that mobile phone technology would only be available to the super wealthy in the 80s.

nokia 3210

It wouldn’t be until 1999 with the release of the Nokia 3210, pictured above, that mobile phones would start to become something that the average person could afford. The 3210 was so successful that it ended up selling over 150 million units. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S4 sold 80 million units. The legendary status of the follow up to the 3210, the 3310, was cemented when HMD Global released a revamped, Android version of the Nokia 3310 in 2017.

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Now, 46 years after that first mobile phone call, mobile phones are priced so that pretty much anyone can afford one and are basically everywhere. The antennas are gone, the physical buttons were replaced with capacitive touch screens, and things have gotten a whole lot smaller, but the fundamental principle of that first mobile call remains intact.

What’s your favorite phone from your history? Do you remember your first mobile device? Let us know in the comments.

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