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History of the Cellular (Cell/Mobile) Phone - People - Dr Martin Cooper


 Alexander G. Bell

 B. Ghillebaert

 C. Dunstone

 Daniel Noble

 F. Hillebrand

 Gug. Marconi

 Lars Ericsson

 Lee De Forest

 John Mitchell

 Karl Braun

 Mahlon Loomis

 Martin Cooper

 Michael Faraday

 Reg. Fessenden

 Samuel Morse


Dr Martin Cooper (born December 26, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois, USA) is the son of Ukrainian immigrants and a former Motorola vice president and division manager. In the 1970s, Dr Cooper led the team that developed the handheld mobile phone and as such has made a significant contribution to the history of the cell (mobile) phone. Dr Cooper is still (as of 2011) involved in the technology industry and is the CEO and founder of ArrayComm, a company that works on researching smart antenna technology and improving wireless networks.

Dr Martin Cooper

Dr Martin Cooper


After World War II, Cooper, left the navy and began working at Teletype Corporation, a subsidiary of Western Electric. In 1950, he received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). In 1954, he was hired by Motorola. During this time he attended classes and also studied at night before going on to earn a master's degree in electrical engineering from IIT in 1957.

In 1960, John F Mitchell, who also received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering (1950) from IIT, became chief engineer of Motorola's mobile communications projects. Cooper reported to Mitchell. In the 1960s, Cooper was instrumental in turning pagers from a technology used in single buildings to one that stretched across cities. Cooper helped fix a flaw in the quartz crystals Motorola made for its radios. This encouraged the company to mass-produce the first crystals for use in wrist watches. Cooper worked on developing portable products, including the first portable handheld police radios, made for the Chicago police department in 1967.

In the early 1970s, Mitchell put Cooper in charge of Motorola's car phone division where he led cellular research. Cooper envisioned mobile phones that would be small and light enough to be portable so that they were not restricted to car use. Due to years of research and development in portable products directed by Cooper and new technologies from all over the company, when the pressure was on, it took only 90 days (in 1973) to create the first portable cellular 800 MHz phone prototype.

1973 - World's first handheld cellular phone call in public

In 1973, Motorola installed a base station to handle the first public demonstration of a phone call over the cellular network. At the time, the company was trying to persuade the Federal Communications Commission to allocate frequency space to private companies for use in the emerging technology of cellular communications.

After carrying out initial tests in Washington for the F.C.C., Cooper and Motorola took the cellular phone technology to New York to demonstrate it to reporters and the public. On April 3, 1973, and standing on Sixth Avenue in New York City near the New York Hilton hotel, Cooper made a phone call from a prototype Dyna-Tac handheld cellular phone. The phone connected Cooper with the base station on the roof of the Burlington House (now the Alliance Capital Building) across the street from the hotel and into the AT&T land-line telephone system. As reporters and passers-by watched, he dialed the number and held the phone to his ear. That first call, placed to Cooper's rival at Bell Labs, Dr. Joel S. Engel (head of research - that must have really hurt !!), began a fundamental technology and communications market shift towards making phone calls to a person instead of to a place.

This first phone weighed a heafty 2.5 lb (1.1 kg) approximately. It was the product of Cooper's vision for personal wireless handheld telephone communications, distinct from mobile car phones. Cooper has stated that watching Captain Kirk using his communicator on the television show Star Trek inspired him to develop the handheld mobile phone.

After demonstrating the prototype cell phone to reporters, Cooper permitted some of them to make phone calls to anyone they wanted to, just to prove that the cell phone could function as a versatile part of the telephone network.

Cooper is recognised as the inventor of the first handheld cellular phone and the first person to make a phone call in public on a handheld cell phone. Cooper and the engineers who worked for him, and John F Mitchell, are named on the patent "Radio telephone system" filed on October 17, 1973.

Commercializing the product

At 1 kilogram (2.2 lb), the original Motorola DynaTAC handset was quite heavy, and only had 35 minutes of talk time. Cooper is quoted as saying though: "The battery lifetime was 20 minutes, but that wasn't really a big problem because you couldn't hold that phone up for that long." By 1983, and after four iterations, Cooper's team had reduced the handset's weight by half that of the original. The list price was around $4,000 (2009 equivalent price: $8,600). Cooper left Motorola before they started selling handheld mobile phones to consumers.

Dr Martin Cooper

Cellular Business Systems

Cooper started a company with partners to provide billing systems for cellular operators. They sold the company in 1986 to Cincinnati Bell for $23m.


In 2006, Cooper and his wife, Arlene Harris, founded GreatCall, maker of Jitterbug, a U.S. mobile virtual wireless operator (in cooperation with the Verizon network). The company provides mobile telephone service carried on its own brand of handsets, which are marketed specifically to those looking for simplicity.


To make a home base, Cooper and his wife Arlene Harris founded Dyna in 1987 to provide a home base for their various development and support activities incubating several businesses including GreatCall-Jitterbug, SOS Wireless, Accessible Wireless, ArrayComm, and Subscriber Computing. The jitterbug was created for the use of elderly people that could not hear well.

Cooper's Law

Cooper has determined that the ability to transmit different radio communications at one time and in the same place has grown with the same pace since Guglielmo Marconi's first transmissions in 1895. The number of such communications being theoretically possible has doubled every 30 months, from then, for 104 years. This fact is known as Cooper's Law.

Awards and affiliations

In 1995, Dr Martin Cooper received the Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award for his technological innovations in the field of communication. Martin Cooper was mentioned in Red Herring's Top ten Entrepreneurs of 2000. In 2009, along with Raymond Tomlinson, Cooper received the Prince of Asturias Award for scientific and technical research. In February 2010, Cooper was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He is an IIT Life Trustee and also a member of Mensa.

More information about Dr Martin Cooper can be found here:

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