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The mobile phone turns 40 years old

Will be out celebrating tonight
Wed Apr 03 2013, 10:44
Pile of discarded mobile phones

IT IS FORTY YEARS since someone ensured that we will never be out of touch or out of contact with the office by inventing the mobile phone.

Back then of course phones were only really mobile if you were strong and capable of carrying them around. Now they are so small you are in danger of losing them in your pockets. They are also ubiquitous.

Flash backwards 40 years though, and you would find yourself in a land where people shared public telephones, used phones on their desks and didn't take photos of their cats and text them to 100 friends while on the bus.

Forty years ago there were car phones, but it was while he was working at Motorola in the 1970s that a chap named Martin Cooper came up with, made and then called someone on the first handheld mobile phone.

Something of a brick - you would be probably better off mugging someone with it than for it - the first mobile phone was used by Cooper to phone a rival at AT&T's Bell Labs on 3 April 1973.

We can imagine the response that got, but expect that the call was rather short anyway, particularly as the phone had terrible battery life, weighed 2lb and Cooper was probably sick of holding it up to his head. Mobile phones hit the UK in the mid 1980s, but were expensive and still rather large.

Now it is estimated by the International Telecommunications Union that there are six billion mobile phone subscriptions (PDF) in the world, and seven billion people.

In 2011 Ofcom, the UK's telecoms watchdog, found that 15 percent of the UK had foregone a landline phone for a mobile, and that there were just over 80 million of us with a mobile phone of some kind. µ


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