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Cell Phones

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Cell Phones

 

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Maybe nowadays it is hard to imagine a time when people did not have a cell phone and the ability to make an instant phone call; a time when people were just disconnected.

Since the 60s just a few had in-car radio phones. They had a big 25 watt radio transmitter/receiver in the trunk, and a handset inside the car. But they were incredibly expensive and only rich people or businessmen required or could afford one.

In 1956 the first automatic mobile phone system, called MTA (Mobile Telephone system A), was developed by Ericsson and commercially released in Sweden; it had a weight of 40 kg (90 lb) but later was improved by the MTB with a weight of 9 kg (20 lb). However it was not popular since by the time it shut down in 1983 it just had 600 users. The first person in the United kingdom to have a mobile phone in the car was Prince Philip in 1957.

The origin of modern non-vehicular cell phone can be traced back in 1973 when a Motorola researcher and executive, Martin Cooper, the inventor of the first practical mobile phone for hand-held use, after a long race against Bell Labs for the first portable mobile phone, made the first call on a hand-held mobile phone on April 3, 1973 to his rival, Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.

The idea behind the cell phone technology was that a city was break up into many small cells. Each cell would have a tower holding the antennas, and that tower would be able to transmit only two or three miles. Inside each cell there would be about 100 different radio frequencies in use, allowing about 50 simultaneous calls. Then, those frequencies could be reused in cells across the city by spacing things out properly. The system had huge capacity compared to the radio telephone system. Instead of one tower with four channels serving a 40-mile radius, this new technology offered dozens of cells in a city with 50 callers in each cell. Since the towers were always just a mile or two away, the phone could get by with a one-watt transmitter.

The first commercially automated cellular network (the 1G generation) was launched in Japan in 1979, in the metropolitan area of Tokyo. By the mid-80s the network had been expanded to cover all of Japan, becoming the first nation-wide 1G network.

In 1981, it was followed by Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, becoming the first mobile phone network featuring international roaming. The first 1G network in the USA was Chicago based Ameritech in 1983 using the Motorola DynaTAC mobile phone. Several countries then followed in the early 1980s including the UK, Mexico and Canada.

At the beginning the system for a city was expensive, because companies had to build all those towers in each city. The first real, portable, battery-operated handheld cell phone was called the DynaTAC by Motorola with a $4,000 cost, it was as big as a brick (25.4 cm / 10 inches) and had a weight of 0.8 kilograms / 2lb. The cost per minute was a dollar or more. So it was mostly used rich people who really needed the service, and could afford it. So back in the early 1980s, if you saw someone using such a handheld "brick" cell phone, you knew you were seeing a "rich person".

But soon prices started to fall. However cities were isolated to each other, and it was not until prices fell dramatically and thousands started subscribing, nationwide roaming and free long distance became possible.

Later in the 90s and 2000s 2G (Second Generation) and 3G (Third Generation) were developed respectively, allowing digitalization of cell phone systems and turning them into what they are nowadays; handheld mini-computers that can be used to call people, surf on the net, send messages, download files, take photos or shoot videos, among other services; all in one plain, small andlight device.

By 1990 12.4 million people worldwide had cellular subscriptions as of 2009 that number grew to over 4.6 billion, thus becoming one of the most widespread and fast growing technologies of the last 20 years worldwide.

This is another technology that grew up together with the millennials; who cannot almost remember, let alone imagine, a life without cell phones.

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