Here’s one of those anniversary news items that makes you realize two things: A length of time (in this case, 40 years) can seem like both a long time, and a short time.
Today is the 40th anniversary of the first cell-phone call.
Here’s a quote from an article appearing this morning on the news website, Quartz (QZ.com):
The first mobile phone call was made 40 years today, on April 3, 1973, by Motorola employee Martin Cooper. Using a prototype of what would become the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, the world’s first commercial cell phone, Cooper stood near a 900 MHz base station on Sixth Avenue, between 53rd and 54th Streets, in New York City and placed a call to the headquarters of Bell Labs in New Jersey.
As I looked at the graphic accompanying the story, I realized I have owned a version of mobile phone (or, as we call them here in the US of A, “cell phone”) from each of the major generations represented in the art. That’s the part that makes me think, gee, I’m old. But then, I look at the graphic again, and I realize that it took about 15 years for that Motorola Brick he’s holding to fall in price enough to get into my hands. And I think, gee, that’s not such a long time ago.
And then I started thinking about how long it takes the technology we believe is moving rapidly to get from promise to reality, and how reality never is the same as what we imagined it would be when we first heard its promise.
Take the cell phone, for example. I feel pretty certain that my iPhone can place and receive calls, but the “phone” is one of its features I use the least. And does Motorola even make phones anymore? Google owns them for some reason having to do with patents, right? And I’m not quite sure, but I don’t think Google makes mobile phones either (not counting the ones it soon will be selling that look like a really bad pair of safety glasses you buy at the hardware store), but it gives away the Android operating system for free to anyone who wants to sell a phone, say Samsung or Facebook?
And who would have guessed 40 years ago, today, that the mobile phone would primarily be used as a device that enables you send a message to people with whom you are sharing a physical space (“You’re boring and I’m rude.”) while simultaneously sending a message to those with whom you are sharing a virtual space (“Where r u?”)
Aren’t we lucky to be living through such amazing times?