John F Mitchell was the chief engineer of Motorola's mobile- and portable-products division. He later became the company's president and chief operating officer.
In many ways, the history of the cell (mobile) phone began life at Bell Labs way back in 1947 when they first put forward the idea of a cellular system. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the company continued to ask the FCC for channels. Motorola was also becoming a major player in the mobile communication industry and, in 1960, John F. Mitchell, who was an electrical engineer from the Illinois Institute of Technology, became Motorola's chief engineer for its mobile communications products. Mitchell oversaw the development and marketing of the first pager to use transistors.
Motorola had for a long time been producing mobile telephones for vehicles, but these were large and heavy and, due to the amount of power they consumed, required the vehicle's engine to be running in order for the phones to be used. Mitchell's team was responsible for developing portable cellular telephony, and Mitchell was among the Motorola employees granted a patent for this work in 1973.
Martin Cooper, a former general manager for the systems division at Motorola led the team that produced the DynaTAC 8000X, which was the first commercially available cell phone small enough to be 'easily' carried. Cooper made the first phone call from a prototype phone in 1973. The DynaTAC's retail price, $3,995 (about $8800 in present-day terms - 2011), ensured that it would not become a mass-market item.
By 1998, when Mitchell retired, cell (mobile) phones and associated services made up an incredible two thirds of Motorola's $30 billion revenue stream.
John F. Mitchell died on June 11, 2009, aged 81 and will be remembered as a significant contributor to the history of the cell (mobile) phone.