The man who invented the first-ever cell phone has said people need to “get a life” and stop using their devices so much.
Engineer Martin Cooper, 93, is credited with creating the original wireless cellular device, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, in 1973, but now, nearly 50 years later, he thinks people need to spend less time on their phones.
While chatting in an interview, the inventor and engineer, who is from Chicago, admitted that he uses his mobile phone less than five percent of his time. When asked what he had to say to people who use theirs for hours on end every day, he said they should put down their phones and live a little.
“You really spend five hours a day? Get a life,” Martin responded, before bursting out into laughter.
Martin graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1950 and earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from IIT seven years later. His first job was at Teletype Corporation before he moved to Motorola in 1954. In his early years at the company, he helped pioneer many products like one of the first handheld police radio systems.
In the 1970s, car phones, which were plugged into the vehicles’ batteries and made outgoing calls through the radio channels, but hardly ever worked – were becoming more prominent, but Martin was the first person to bring a portable phone to the market.
“Car phones had one transmitter in a city, and a very limited amount of radio channels,” Martin previously told CBS in an interview. “The chances were one in 20 that you could make a phone call, that’s how bad that service was”.
Martin told the outlet that the car phones were just “wrong”, adding, “People had been wired to their desks and their kitchens for over 100 years, and now they’re going to wire us to our cars, where we spend five percent of our time”.
Before he created a way to make it work, he thought of the way he wanted it to look.
“Small enough to put in your pocket, big enough so that it could go between your ears and your mouth,” he explained. He then came up with the idea of assigning each person their own phone number “not to a place, not to a desk, not to a home, but to a person”.
Martin then helmed the concept of wireless communication, using his expertise in the radio industry to create a system of towers that the phone could ring off of.
He spent only three months building the phone with a team of other Motorola employees, with the company reportedly investing $100 million in the product.
On April 3, 1973, Martin made the first-ever cell phone call while pitching the product to a reporter. He called his competitor, Joel Engel, who was one of the head engineers at AT&T.
“I said, ‘Joel, I’m calling you on a cellphone, but a real cellphone – a personal, handheld portable cellphone’. Silence on the other end of the line,” Martin recalled.
The original phone could last 25 minutes before it ran out of battery, and took 10 hours to charge. It weighed two and a half pounds and was 10 inches long. Martin worked with Motorola for 29 years, rising to Vice-President and Corporate Director of Research and Development.
During his time there, he also played a hand in creating some of the first pagers and wrist watches. He married a woman named Arlene Harris, who is also an inventor, in 1991. After leaving Motorola, he and Arlene opened their own cell phone company together.
Now, he is retired but he released his own memoir, called Cutting the Cord, in 2021 and he revealed to local media last year that there were already talks of it being turned into a movie.