A Walk Through Time: The History of the Cell Phone

The cell phone as we know it today is really quite a new invention. It’s almost difficult to remember life without them, but for those of us who are nearing or beyond middle age – we spent most of our lives without these devices.

The first person to communicate through wireless was probably Dr. Mahlon Loomis between 1866 and 1873. A dentist, he was clearly a forward thinker who figured out a way to transmit messages telegraphically at an 18 mile distance from the top of the Cohocton Mountain to the top of the Beorse Deer Mountain in Virginia. He was awarded a $50,000 research grant (an enormous sum of money in those days) and he used kites that had copper screens linked to the group with copper wires to use the Earth’s atmosphere as a conductor to transmit messages.

Fast forward a century and we come to Dr. Martin Cooper, who is given the title as the inventor of the first portable handset. He began working for Motorola in 1954 and was tasked with the goal of developing portable products. AT&T was racing to introduce the first cellular communication at the same time, but Mr. Cooper won the race. He created the first working prototype of a cellular phone, called the Motorola Dyna-Tac. After testing it with the Federal Communications Commission in Washington for a while, he and Motorola took the phone to New York.

Playfully showing AT&T who was boss, Cooper placed the first cell phone call in New York City to the AT&T Bell Labs. After this miraculous breakthrough, Cooper spent the next ten years figuring out how to bring this technology to market. In 1983, Motorola introduced the 16-ounce “DynaTAC” for commercial use. Unlike today’s amazing prices, each cell phone then costs $3,500.

Cell phone popularity grew exponentially during the 80s, although most of these were actually car phones. Most people still weren’t carrying cell phones in their hands; rather they had them installed in cars. There were some models that came in tote bags so that they could easily be hooked up to the car’s battery with the DC outlet, while others came in briefcases to hold the large batteries that were necessary.

By the 1990s, the second generation (2G) phones were available and could be used with mobile phone systems like GSM, TDMA and CDMA. These networks allowed for better call quality, less dropped calls, and faster network signaling. Technological advances also enabled cell phones to become hand-held, requiring much smaller batteries.

Today, of course, we have 3G and 4G cell phones that allow users to do an enormous range of functions. They offer everything from email and Internet access to streaming videos and TV, accessing WiFi and beyond.

Cell Phones as Hot Spots

Cell phones

The less tech-savvy among us might first like to know what a ‘HotSpot’ is before we discuss how you can use your own cell phone as a personal hotspot.

Luckily it’s not all that difficult to understand. Here is an example from real life. In the olden days, let’s say five years ago, most people connected to the internet either at work or at home by physically attaching their computers using a cable through their phone lines.

As computer mobility increased and larger numbers of people began using laptop computers, it became incredibly convenient to have wireless access to the internet. A hotspot is the place where it is possible to access the internet, over a wireless area network using a router which is connected to an internet provider. Typically a hotspot uses WiFi technology to connect to the internet.

Hotspots can be found in a huge number of public spaces, from internet cafes, to waiting rooms in hospitals, to airports. Bookstores, department stores, RV parks, and even entire municipalities can allow people to surf the web wirelessly.

But what happens if you are in a place that does not have a hotspot but you want to get your computer on-line? Not a problem if you have a data enabled cellphone. It is possible to create your own personal hotspot using your phone. There are several ways to accomplish this goal, depending on what kind of smartphone you have. If your phone does not have built in WiFi then you will need additional hardware, but if your phone does have WiFi, which the vast majority of smartphones have today, then all you may need is additional software. In many cases your phone may already come with the necessary software to create a hotspot.

Once you have a phone that can create a hotspot for you, you can then connect several WiFi enabled devices, often five or more, to the internet through your cellphone. Now that your phone brings the internet into your home or office, there is the possibility of saving money by dropping your internet provider. Since you are already paying your cellphone company to connect you to the internet, and since you can connect five or more devices to the internet through your phone, it is easy to see that having an internet provider is a superfluous waste of money.

There you have it. The way of the future may be connecting all our internet devices, phones, computers and more, to the internet with our mobile smartphones, simplifying life and saving money, too.

Convergence is the Key to Cell Phones of the Future

The high-tech world is advancing at a breakneck speed! The influence and penetration of incredibly versatile devices into our daily lives is dramatically changing the way we live. It was not so long ago that if you needed to call someone from a public space, you needed to use a public phone. And if the person you wanted to get in touch with was not at home, leaving a message on an answering machine would just have to suffice.

In just a few short years connecting with people has become virtually instantaneous. Unless you are at a place where you must turn off your cell phone, there is nothing preventing instant contact. But of course connecting with friends, family and colleagues is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the capabilities of today’s hand-held devices. (I hesitate to say “cell phone” because many devices today are really computers that also happen to have a cell phone function.)

And that brings us to the future of cell phones. Today we are at a turning point where having a mere phone is seen as a waste of the plastic the phone is made from. There are no longer many cell phones that don’t allow internet access, and more and more phones are of the ‘smart’ variety, containing within them an amazing number of functions from GPS to cameras, to large memories and storage capacities.

What is there to prevent our “cell phones” from truly becoming our computers? They are already loaded with great memory, apps, and operating systems. Everything else that a computer allows you to do can exist on the internet, in the up and coming “cloud.” Eventually, it seems pretty clear, we will be able to take our computers everywhere we go, and when we get home, or arrive at work, all we will need to do is place our devices down on our desks, wirelessly connect to our keyboards, mice and monitors, and we are ready to roll.

And if a great photo op presents itself, just pick up your computer (phone!) and snap a picture; or if your spouse calls to tell you he/she is running late, just press a button, (or maybe you won’t even need to press a button) and start speaking. And let’s not forget about the entertainment aspect of our cell phones. We are already using our phones to house our vast music and video collections which we then access via our TVs and stereo systems. In the future TVs and stereos will most likely be made obsolete by our versatile phones. As our technology continues to advance, we might not even have to touch our phones to operate them. Hand gestures, and speech will more likely than not become the mode of operation.

The future of cell phones is a future in which almost everything we do to interact with the world around us will be achieved through the convergence of all the various tasks into one, hand-held device. Who knows, maybe your ‘phone’ will one day even have a personality all its own, listening to your troubles, soothing your worries, and even being your newest, disembodied best friend.