Exploring the History of the Mobile Cell Phone

Exploring the History of the Mobile Cell Phone

Exploring the history of the mobile cell phone began in 1908. The Chicago Cubs had just won the World Series, surely the first of many championships the club would win, or so the people thought. But Albert Jahn and the Oakland Transcontinental Aerial Telephone and Power Company were busy trying to create the world’s first wireless telephone. Unfortunately for Jahn, others perceived Jahn’s efforts as fraudulent and never proceeded with production.

A mere nine years later, when the crosstown Chicago White Sox hoisted the World Series trophy, Finland’s Eric Tigerstedt got a patent for a “pocket-size folding telephone with a very thin carbon microphone.” In the subsequent years, Germany tested wireless technology on their railroad systems. By 1926, the Germans had functional wireless telephony on luxury trains from Hamburg to Berlin.

Coming to America

Two decades later, the wireless telephony system made its way to the “White City” of Chicago, where the Cubs and White Sox have been winless since Tigerstedt’s 1917 patent. Baseball was the last thing on the mind of the fine folks who made the first call on a radiotelephone. Sadly, the monumental discovery hit a snag because of the limited available radio frequencies.

It wasn’t until 1956 that Sweden started making headway on the car phone. The Swedes developed the first automated vehicle mobile phone system, installing a rotary dial weighing nearly 90 pounds. It was hardly a mobile phone based on weight, but at least the Swedish people could make calls in the comfort of their cars.

The last key development before the mobile phone’s rise to prominence came in 1969 when The Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) Group had engineers from Scandinavian countries create a mobile phone network in the US with accessibility in mind. After all, the US could get people to the moon in 1969, so figuring out an effective mobile phone system wasn’t that far-fetched.

For the Very First Time

Throughout the ups and downs of fiddling with mobile telephony, Motorola hit paydirt when it built the first cell phone of its kind. The company’s DynaTAC 8000X weighed about two and a half pounds and was thicker than a freshly made milkshake.

A Motorola executive, Martin Cooper, made the first call on this brick-like phone. Cooper dialed Joel Engel’s digits, whether it was out of spite or spirited playfulness. Engel worked at Bell Labs, one of Motorola’s largest competitors.

The phone usage to battery ratio was laughable, considering the user could only talk on it for 30 minutes, even with its 10 hours of charging time. The DynaTAC was also unfathomably expensive. The first version of it was a hair short of $4,000. Translated into today’s money, it cost nearly $10,000.

The DynaTAC has become more of a collector’s item today, as the lucky sellers who have one are asking around $45,000 to add it to your collection.

New and Improved

A decade later, Motorola made game-changing improvements to their DynaTAC model, allowing the world to get their paws on a DynaTAC 8000X. The phone was still large and carried a $4,000 price tag, but it should earn residual payments because we often saw it in pop culture.

If you were wondering when we would mention the Zack Morris cell phone from Saved the Bell, it’s right now. The 8000X was the phone of choice for “Preppie” and his shenanigans. Everyone’s favorite stockbroker, Gordon Gecko, also had this phone in Wall Street.


Many of us automatically assume that a person is T.C.O.B. (taking care of business) whenever they carry a briefcase. Siemens Mobile, inventors of the Siemens Mobiltelefon C1, wanted to capitalize on the suitcase trend, creating a phone that resembles one. That’s right, folks—Siemens thought carrying a car battery with a phone was a good idea.

The primary reason for this funky design was to ensure the phone had enough juice to call when you were out and about. Needless to say, this mobile phone didn’t have much staying power.

Nokia’s Emergence

Nokia is synonymous with the mobile phone industry, even if most of its claim to fame is a disastrous merger that cost Microsoft billions of dollars. Nonetheless, it jumped into the game in 1987 with the Mobira Cityman 900.

The phone was as expensive as the Zack Morris and briefcase models but it was slightly smaller and lighter. Like the DynaTAC 8000X, the Mobira Cityman had pop culture significance, with its biggest claim to fame being in Lethal Weapon. Without the phone, how else would Murtaugh and Riggs keep the streets of Los Angeles safe?

Samsung’s Turn

As we headed into the 1990s, Samsung jumped into the mobile phone Thunderdome with the SH-100. This cell phone was the first to closely resemble what we use today. The SH-100 was a “handphone,” although its display screen looked as small as the can of beer Andre the Giant held in that famous photograph. Text messages required a microscope to read; only the dialed number would appear on the display screen.

Game Over (Flip, Flip, Flip)

Motorola seems to be the first to the scene during the early days of the mobile phone, and they were again introducing the flip phone. Motorola’s MicroTAC was one-of-a-kind, being the smallest and lightest phone to hit the market. This unique cell phone set the standard and became the foundation for modern flip phones.

Telephonophobia Sufferers Unite

Contrary to popular belief of today’s youth, the telephone’s primary function was to call and have a conversation with people from across the world. The idea of texting didn’t come to fruition until 1992 when Neil Papworth developed an SMS messaging system. Papworth kept his message brief, simply texting “Merry Christmas!” to a friend at a holiday party.

Get Smart

Earlier than most people think, the first smartphone appeared on the market before Steve Jobs changed the game forever. As the first device with applications and a touchscreen, IBM’s Simon from 1994 is the genesis of all smartphones.

Despite the initial failure of smartphones, “regular” mobile phones have continued to rise in popularity as they have shrunk in size and expanded in various designs, as the following companies have shown.

Blacker the Berry…

After IBM’s first “smartphone,” there were major changes in the cell phone industry. More players, features, and accessibility entered the scene than ever. Phones were vibrating, pictures were being taken, and e-mails were being sent, but the BlackBerry put them all together. The BlackBerry became the go-to device for multitasking professionals on the go.

iPhones Getting the Job Done

Unquestionably, one of the most meaningful events in the history of the world was the invention of the first iPhone in 2007. The original iPhone, also known as the iPhone 2G, came out of nowhere since it ditched most of the mechanical buttons in favor of a touch-based interface.

The iPhone was revolutionary, but many still opted for the far better BlackBerry. The Blackberry became popular among youths and businesspeople worldwide thanks to BBM instant messaging.

Android’s Dream

Commercially available Android phones powered by the Linux-based Android operating system began with the HTC Dream in 2008. The Android operating system had its innovative alerts system and Google service integration but it was often criticized for its lack of functionality and interaction with third-party applications.

Samsung’s Galaxy Brain

The following year, Samsung’s Galaxy came to be with its GT-I7500. It wasn’t until 2010 that Samsung’s Galaxy S arrived. At the time, tech-savvy people touted the Galaxy S as a graphical processing marvel, especially considering its thin structure.

We hope this exploration into the history of the mobile cell phone gave you a better appreciation for what we have today, as these companies continue to make strides toward improving their products little by little. Another wonderful thing about cell phones is you can buy refurbished iPhones that work like new from Wisetek Market!

Exploring the History of the Mobile Cell Phone