Wenwenchen's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

TechPost #2 July 20, 2010

Filed under: Tech Post — wenwenchen @ 6:42 pm

A Brief Development History of Moblie Phone

Wenwen Chen


The primitive mobile telephones existed in the 1930s before the World War II. After the telephone was developed in the mid-1870s and radio at the turn of the century, it was natural to seek ways to combine the two, merging radio’s mobility with the telephone’s person-to-person capability and extensive network. (Tom Farley, 2007)They were specially converted two way radios used by government or industry, with calls patched manually into the landline telephone network. Many New York City fireboats and tugboats had this kind of radiotelephones at that time. (Tom Farley, 2005) Those radiotelephones were mobile, but they were big and clunky; and they were limited by the small range of the transmitter; the most serious problem is they only connected with fellow users.

On July 28, 1945 Time magazine said American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) was ready to manufacture “a new two-way, auto-to-anywhere radio-telephone for U.S. motorists.” It says millions of users could use the same channels across the country. A year after this print, on June 17, 1946 in Saint Louis, Missouri, AT&T and South-western Bell, began to operate MTS (Mobile Telephone Service). Motorola built the radios and the Bell System installed them. In 1960s, Motorola became a major supplier of pre-cellular car telephones. However, at that time, no one saw mobile telephony as a mass market, because the phones were big, expensive, and complicated to use, and the callers had little privacy. To make one three-minute call per day on the car phone, the cost per call would work out to about $8.00 in today’s money, exclusive of toll charges. (Tom Farley, 2007)Problems were listed by plenty of users, but there was no other way to connect to the telephone system when you were mobile. But all those imperfect promote the high speed development of mobile telephony industry.

In December 1947 Donald H. Ring outlined the idea that a true cellular radio system for mobile telephony in an internal company memo. The cellular radio elements were known as a network of small geographical areas called cells, a base station transmitter in each, cell traffic controlled by a central switch, frequencies reused by different cells and so on. (Tom Farley, 2005) Then in 1947, and for decades after, with this technology, more spectrums, more channels were essential to developing a high capacity in mobile telephone service.

In January 1969, the Bell System made commercial cellular radio operational for the first time by employing frequency reuse in a small zone system. By using public payphones, users could make telephone calls while moving at more than 160 kilometers per hour. In the same year, the first all transistor mobile telephones appeared: Motorola’s ‘Mark 12’. It marked the ending of the tube era for radio telephones. However, this transistor rig was still big and mounted in a vehicle.

In May, 1978 The Bahrain Telephone Company (Batelco) began operating the first commercial cellular telephone system, which had 250 subscribers in two simple cell schemes and can operate on 20 channels in the 400 MHz band, and used all Matsushita (Panasonic) equipment. (Tom Farley, 2005) Then worldwide commercial cellular deployment blossomed in the late 1970s and continued into the early 1980s.

In 1983, Motorola announced the world’s first handheld mobile phone, DynaTAC 8000X. But it took ten years for the DynaTAC to reach the market in 1973. Upon its release in 1983, the DynaTAC 8000X became an instant cultural icon, both as a status symbol for the rich and as an almost miraculous wonder: phone that a person could use anywhere. After the success of the DynaTAC, in 1984, Motorola followed up with the much small and lighter MicroTAC phone. This MicroTAC included a novel space-saving idea: it placed part of the phone’s hardware in a hinged section that could fold inward or outward as needed, thus reducing the size of the phone when it wasn’t in use. This concept lives on in many cell phones today. (Benj Edwards, 2009)

Although public mobile telephone history begins in the 1940s, only since 1990s have mobiles become low cost and used worldwide. In 1980s, many people think of the ‘car phones’; while in 1990s, they picture bag phones like the Motorola 2900. A bag contained a transceiver and battery, thus the users operated a much lighter corded handset. (Benj Edwards, 2009) Users could carry the bag on their shoulders. Because of the heftier batteries, bag phones could afford to transmit a cell signal with great power, supply long talk times and superior range. Therefore, even the bag phones remained bulk and the smaller phones are available on the market, the bag phones are still very popular.

In 1996, Motorola produced the 3.1-ounce StarTAC, which immediately proved popular and unfuential. (Benj Edward, 2009) The StarTAC allowed users to fold the phone in half when they weren’t talking on it. We now call this design ‘clamshell’, for the similarity to the way a clam opens and closes. A large percentage of mobile phones still use this design today.

After Nokia 9000i was born, the real beginning of our modern smartphone era started. Though many people give the honor of first-ever smartphone to IBM Simon. The Nokia 9000i truly was a pocket computer and a cell phone rolled into one. The Nokia 9000i could send and receive faxes, text messages, and e-mail, and also had limited Web access through 16-character SMS messages.

In 2002, Sprint and Sanyo released the first American cell phone with a built-in camera, the SCP-5300. The camera phone has a color screen, and the public went crazy for it. In 2004, Motorola broke the status quo of looking the same with the Razr V3. Motorola Razr V3 was a slim, slab-like clamshell phone with a large color screen, a stylish and flat keyboard, a built-in camera, and multimedia capabilities. It looks so cool and became wide popular.

Till now, mobile phones had become the dynamic and perhaps most important communication tool of our lives. After the year 2007, Apple rocked our world with its iPhone: it is a powerful pocket computer with excellent software, a game machine, and a multimedia-playback device. It also offers the ability of instant, high-speed access to the Web, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, wherever you can find mobile phone coverage. The iPhone became a revolutionary device and other companies are already coming up with imitators.


Tom Farley. (2005) Mobile Telephone History

Retrieved from: http://www.cems.uwe.ac.uk/~rwilliam/CSA_course/mobile_phone_history.pdf

Tom Farley. (2007) The Cell Phone Revolution

Retrieved from: http://www.americanheritage.com/events/articles/web/20070110-cell-phone-att-mobile-phone-motorola-federal-communications-commission-cdma-tdma-gsm.shtml

John R. Free. (2008) World’s First Cell Phone (Jul, 1973)

Retrieved from: http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2008/04/22/worlds-first-cell-phone/

Benj Edward. (2009) Evolution of the Cell Phone

Retrieved from: http://www.pcworld.com/article/173033/evolution_of_the_cell_phone.html

Already in 1924, Bell Labs tested mobile radio telephony (from http://www.bell-labs.com/history/75/ gallery.html)

Already in 1924, Bell Labs tested mobile radio telephony (from http://www.bell-labs.com/history/75/ gallery.html)

An IMTS car phone, built by Motorola, from 1964. It weighed 40 pounds, half as much as the original 1940s units.

Motorola MicroTAC

Motorola 2900 Bag Phone

Nokia 9000i Communicator

Sanyo SCP-5300

Motorola Razr V3

Apple iPhone


3 Responses to “TechPost #2”

  1. Susan Huang Says:

    In my opinion, I cannot imagine what happen if I do not have cellphone. In my daily life, cellphone be the important role to let me contact with family, friends, teammates, and classmates. By the way, sometimes cellphone also as the tool to let us go to browse internet or as the portable video game player to kill time when users are feeling boring. Now, cellphone as the digital technology which contains multi-functions, and cellphone will not only limited to contact people, it can giving us more fun.

  2. It was a very good writing, seriously, cellphone is one thing that I cannot live without. This writing has brought a better understand of the history of cellphones!!!!!

  3. […] owners saw lighter, more advanced mobile car phones with push buttons. This one by Motorola weighed 40 pounds, half as much of the original units from the '40s. Over the years, they managed to get down into […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s