The first call publicly conducted on a cellular telephone was made for two reasons: show, and spite. Dr. Martin Cooper and a design team at Motorola had just developed a prototype for the device that would go on to transform the way humans communicate. So Cooper, to celebrate the achievement, took part in a tradition that was itself fittingly human: He gloated. Publicly.
The 'Dazzling' Demo
On April 3, 1973 -- 40 years ago today -- Cooper took an early model of Motorola's DynaTAC phone (a brick phone weighing 2.5 pounds, measuring 9 inches long and 5 inches deep, and featuring about 20 minutes of battery life) to the streets of New York City. He pressed the phone's "off hook" button. And he made a call to the land line of Bell Labs, where he was connected to his counterpart, and chief rival, Joel Engel. "Joel, this is Marty," Cooper said, gleefully. "I'm calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone."
Cooper, in doing all this, made quite a scene. Telephones, at that point, were not things you could just carry around with you as you walked. (Cooper liked to joke that the DynaTAC's limited talk time wasn't technically a problem -- since "you couldn't hold that phone up for that long.") So a guy strolling around near Radio City Music Hall, talking animatedly into a large hunk of plastic, was a spectacle. Even for a city that was used to spectacles. "As I walked down the street while talking on the phone," Cooper would later recall, "sophisticated New Yorkers gaped at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call."