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"Joel, this is Marty Cooper, I'd like you to know that I'm calling you from a cellular phone." Exactly 40 years ago, on April 3, 1973, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper placed this call -- the first ever on a cell phone -- to Joel Engel, his rival at AT&T’s Bell Labs.
Cooper, now 85, made history in downtown Manhattan using the bulky prototype he had developed.
Cooper's prototype arrived on the market a decade later at the staggering price of $3,995. Designed by Rudy Krolopp, it was known as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, or simply "the brick.” Featuring 20 large buttons and a long rubber antenna, it measured about 11 inches high, weighed almost 2 pounds, provided one hour of battery life and could store 30 phone numbers.
Motorola Mobility, LLC
Released in 1984, Nokia’s Mobira Talkman was advertised as one of the first transportable phones. It was sold for use both in and out of a car -- if you could lift it.
Nokia's concept evolved in 1987 with the handheld mobile Mobira Cityman 900. Weighing 28 ounces, it was one of the lightest phones at that time and cost 24,000 Finnish marks ($5,178).
Motorola Mobility, LLC
Ahead of its time, the Motorola MicroTAC was the smallest available phone when it was released in 1989. Featuring the flip-phone form later adopted by the fashionable StarTAC, the first clamshell cellular phone, the MicroTAC was 9 inches long when open and weighed only 12.3 ounces.
Launched in 1992 -- also when the first text message arrived -- the Nokia 101 was the first commercially available GSM mobile phone.
Although it lacked the famous Nokia ringtone, introduced in 1994, it featured a monochrome display and memory for 99 phone numbers. Its design anticipated the successful "candy bar” phones.
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Released in 1993 as a joint creation of IBM and BellSouth, this was the first smartphone. A fax machine, a PDA, a pager and a mobile phone, the IBM Simon featured no physical keys, but used a touchscreen and optional stylus. Amazingly, it included applications such as games, email, a notepad, calculator, world clock, address book and a calendar. It only sold in the United States, for $899.
Launched in 1999, this was the first mobile phone with integrated GPS.
Featuring a large grayscale LCD screen, it offered a 12-channel GPS navigator and maps to trace position. It also sent coordinates via text messages to a list of emergency numbers and featured a "friend find” service to track other Benefon Esc users.
Launched in 2000, the Samsung SPH-M100 Uproar holds its place in history as the first mobile phone capable of storing and playing MP3 files.
Cell phone photography arrived in 2000, with Samsung's SCH-V200, a VGA-camera-equipped phone. Released in South Korea, it featured a digital camera with a 180-degree rotating lens and a maximum resolution of 352 x 288 -- a far cry from the 41-megapixel camera phone that Nokia will release in European markets in May.
Motorola Mobility, LLC
Motorola brought contemporary design to mobile phones with the Razr V3 in 2004. Thin, trendy and stylish, it featured a VGA camera, quad-band compatibility and Bluetooth support.
The phone became an icon. According to Motorola, more than 110 million units sold worldwide.
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The launch of Apple's iPhone in 2007 changed everything. With its unique design, easy-to-use operating system and a multitude of apps to download, the multi- touchscreen phone set the standard for all cell phones to come.
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Once an accessory for the privileged, Martin Cooper's vision is now a staple of life. Today the world has nearly as many mobile phone subscriptions as inhabitants.
Indeed, 6 billion people, out of the world's estimated 7 billion, have access to mobile phones.
Take heed, Alec Baldwin and other Words With Friends fans, the Federal Aviation Administration is drafting new rules about when passengers can use cell phones and other electronic devices on planes. For a long time the rules have generally been to turn them off when the plane is taking off and landing; most airlines prohibit cell phone use entirely during flight — hence the “airplane mode” on your phone.
Officials who are familiar with the process of updating FAA regulations told The New York Times that most of the cell phone restrictions will probably be relaxed. So passengers should be able to listen to podcasts, read their e-readers, use Wi-Fi and even send text messages from their cell phones during take off and landing.
Ostensibly the reason for the ban on electronic devices during take off and landing is to prevent interference with the plane’s navigation and communications systems. While there’s no evidence that electronic devices have caused major problems, in some cases the radio frequency emissions from phones actually exceed the limits for interference mandated by the FAA. FAA rules differ from those from the Federal Communications Commission, which sets standards for phones and other electronics.
That has meant that even though there’s no “smoking gun” evidence of a problem, it can’t be ruled out, either. One particular area of concern is GPS systems — one incident report noted a 30-degree error in the navigation systems heading when a passenger turned on a portable DVD player. But it’s also worth noting that the studies were mostly conducted nearly a decade ago, and the average cell phone actually sends out a less-powerful signal now.
There are real safety concerns, but they have more to do with a plane suddenly braking during landing and a cell phone or laptop flying through the air.
The other issue is social, rather than technological. While some want to keep connected all the time, there are passengers who appreciate that a flight — at least for a while — is a cell-phone-chatter-free space. And it’s worth remembering that the ban on electronic devices isn’t new. Back in the 1950s and 1960s using portable FM radios was banned because they interfered with communications. The change is not only the devices we carry, but how we use them and what we expect.
Harmonizing the rules and taking into account the way technology has moved will take some doing. Part of the process will be for airlines to certify that the planes can handle interference. But change is on the way; get ready for boarding.