Perhaps the First Film Explaining Cellular Phone Service

In 1978, Bell Labs wanted you to know about Advanced Mobile Phone Service, available in a car near you.
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AT&T's archives of the Bell Labs research and media provides a neverending stream of fascinating tidbits about the development of modern mobile communications. 

Recently, an archivist unearthed a 1978 film called "Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS)" that is the earliest she's found that describes cellular telephone operation. 

The honeycomb-like structure of a cellular network is shown and the principles of its operations, first laid out in a 1947 paper, are described.

If the timeline for mobile (i.e. cellular) phone communications seems too early, that's because we're not talking about handheld phones. Mobile telephony, at this time, implied car phones. In 1976, there were 44,000 mobile phones on the Bell System, according to this excellent concise history of mobile telephony

 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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