Your Cell Phone Just Turned The Big 4-0: WUSA9 Interviews Marty Cooper, the Pioneer Who Made the First Cell Phone Call in 1973

10:08 PM, Apr 5, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- You know that thing that's most likely within two feet of you right now, your cell phone? Say happy birthday to it. 

Today is the 40th anniversary of the first cell phone call. A lot has changed since April 3, 1973. 

Remember Michael Douglas' character, Gordon Gekko, and his infamous "brick" of a cell phone? That's actually not too different from the one that then-Motorola engineer Marty Cooper used to make that first cell phone call in New York City. 

Cooper, now living in California, and running his own incubator company, Dyna LLC, with his wife, Arlene Harris, chose that day to call his rival, Joel Engel, at Bell Labs. His words: "Joel, this is Marty Cooper. I'm calling you from a cell phone."

We talked to cell phone owners in Cleveland Park, all while holding an old "brick" of a phone we found in the WUSA9 basement.

Cosette Simon of Cleveland Park says she can't imagine life without it, "The first thing you think of now when you need an answer to a question, you go to your cell phone." Of course, it's easier now. After all, they're lighter, quicker, smarter and there's an app for every "that" you can think of. Cooper's prototype was 10 inches tall. "It weighed two and a half pounds and the battery lasted for 20 minutes, which was not a problem at all because you couldn't hold that phone up for 20 minutes.

Cooper says he gets a new phone every other month, to keep up with technology. But, he still believes in it's core," I may be a luddite but I think that the most important thing you can do on a cell phone is talk to somebody." 

Cooper points to what he believe s is the next big thing in cell phones - the ability to provide health care to prevent disease by getting checkups over the phone.

And if you're wondering how many calls have been made in the last 40 years, Cooper gives the math a try, "I'm certain that it is in the trillions, just think about it, today there are 6 billion cell phones in the world today, there are only 7 billion people!"

To thank Cooper for his contribution, the Marconi Society announced that he is the recipient of the 2013 Marconi Prize, which is "considered the pinnacle honor in the field of communication and information science."

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