Cooper's Law - World's First Handheld Cellular Phone Call in Public

World's First Handheld Cellular Phone Call in Public

In 1973, when Motorola installed a base station to handle the first public demonstration of a phone call over the cellular network, 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 some initial testing in Washington for the F.C.C., John F. Mitchell and his team, which included Martin Cooper, took the cellular phone technology to New York to demonstrate it to reporters and the public. On April 3, 1973, standing on Sixth Avenue in New York City near the New York Hilton hotel, Cooper made a phone call from a prototype DynaTAC handheld cellular phone before going to a press conference upstairs in the hotel. 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 Joel S. Engel, head of research at Bell Labs, began a fundamental technology and communications market shift toward making phone calls to a person instead of to a place. This first phone weighed about 2.5 lb (1.1 kg). 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 allowed some of the reporters to make phone calls to anyone of their choosing to prove that the cell phone could function as a versatile part of the telephone network.

Cooper is considered 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 Mitchell are named on the patent "Radio telephone system" filed on October 17, 1973.

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