MWC2023: Martin Cooper, the engineer who made the first mobile phone call 50 years ago: “We are only at the beginning” | Technology | The USA Print

This American engineer was recognized with the Prince of Asturias for his visionary invention: the mobile phone. Martin Cooper (Chicago, 94 years old) enters the press room of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and smiles. In his pocket, a new iPhone. “I try them all,” he admits. He is about to tell how that first call was for the umpteenth time. He flatly denies that he was inspired by the communicator that Captain Kirk used in the mythical television series stark trek. But yeah, he was a shoephone that it worked and placed it in the history of technology forever.

Ask. Do you still want to attend a Mobile World Congress?

Answer. Naturally. I think we are starting in this industry. After 50 years, we are only at the beginning of what we are going to achieve in mobile telephony and the Internet. There are three areas that are going to lead a revolution: education —teachers will have to teach how to use the Internet and discriminate against false information—, medicine —now we can use sensors to know what happens in the human body every minute, we can connect to a computer that analyzes that data and cures the disease before it arrives—and the third is collaboration, being able to work together when distance and time are meaningless. The productivity of the human being will grow in such a way that poverty will be eradicated. Those are the great hopes.

Q. A certainly optimistic view.

R. I’m an optimist, but if I wasn’t, I’m not sure there would be mobile phones today.

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Q. On April 3, 1973, he made the first call with the Dyna-Trac, a Motorola prototype., the company I worked for at the time. What do you remember of that call?

R. I remember my company was threatened by competition. I thought that the way to attract attention was to demonstrate the future of mobile phones with something interesting and they allowed me to create the first model. My team designed it in three months, we put all the available technology together. We had to appear on a television channel, but that morning the program was cancelled. There was someone more important than us. So we alerted a journalist and made the call. That phone was one of a kind. It worked for a few minutes and then it broke.

Q. You are the Graham Bell of mobile telephony.

R. Ideas are important, but putting them into practice requires a lot of people participating. But the world has treated me very well and I appreciate it. We were aware of what we were doing, we knew it and the proof is that there are currently more mobile phones than people on the planet. The important thing is to know when the technology is ready and that was the moment, 1973.

Q. He talks about education, about predicting the future. At what age should a child be given a mobile?

R. It’s a complicated answer, I can only speak from my personal experience. My daughter was sometimes late to pick up my five-year-old grandson and gave him a phone. Why are there no mobiles for children, exclusively for them? My wife created a phone company that focused on a specific market, older people, with a very simply designed model. Why not design a mobile for children with its educational games? I believe that everyone is different from the rest and phones should be designed for the person, they should be humanized and designed with the DNA of the user in mind. Why not have the phone under your skin to be able to make calls without recharging because your body is the battery?

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Q. I see a problem: the time we spend per day hooked on the phone.

R. Yes it is. I think about it when I’m driving and I see those people walking around with their phones without looking at anyone else. But all progress has negative aspects. I believe in people, in humanity, and I believe that we will solve it. The most important part of technology is how it affects people.

Q. How much do you use your mobile now?

R. Not much. When my wife gives me orders, she does it through her mobile. One of the things I’ve learned is that you don’t have to answer the phone, they can leave you a message or a photo. Now I dedicate myself to advising companies, to thinking about the future, I don’t need to be connected all the time.

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