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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Inventor Of Cell Phone: ‘We Are Just Getting Started’

Martin Cooper, chairman and CEO of ArrayComm, is pictured in 2003 holding a Motorola DynaTAC, a 1973 prototype of the first handheld cellular telephone. (Eric Risberg/AP)

Martin Cooper, chairman and CEO of ArrayComm, is pictured in 2003 holding a Motorola DynaTAC, a 1973 prototype of the first handheld cellular telephone. (Eric Risberg/AP)

Forty years ago this month, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper changed the world by making the world’s first cell phone call.

He stood on a New York City street on April 3, 1973, with a 10-inch-long, 2.5-pound phone nicknamed “the brick” and called his engineering nemesis at the much bigger Bell Labs.

“If we don’t blow ourselves up, this is going to be a really wonderful world.”

And Cooper hasn’t looked back since.

The 85-year-old inventor and entrepreneur says “I only live for the future,” and claims the cell phone era is only just beginning.

“The cell phones that we have today are really very awkward, but they’re getting better and better, and pretty soon the phone is going to be an extension of our mind, an extension of our body – and it’s going to make our lives much easier,” Cooper told Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Future Breakthroughs

Cooper sees other revolutions coming as a result of cell phone technology.

“Just suppose that you could do a physical examination, not every year, which people do and which is almost worthless, but every minute, because you’re connected, and because we have devices that you can put on your body that measure virtually everything on your body. If you could be sensing your body all the time and anticipate a disease before it happens,” Cooper said.

A computer would process the data, Cooper said, and detect illness and disease before they took hold. It could then instruct a patient on what to do to stop the illness.

“If you extrapolate that thought, we are going to eliminate the concept of disease. And I think that’s going to happen within the next generation or two,” he said.

Cell phone inventor Martin Cooper's latest product is a phone for seniors. (amazon.com)

Cell phone inventor Martin Cooper’s latest product is a phone for seniors called “Jitterbug.”

In addition to health care, he sees changes in education, as learning tools become more mobile and students are able to spend more time out in the world learning.

“If we don’t blow ourselves up, this is going to be a really wonderful world,” Cooper said.

A Phone For Everyone

Cooper’s latest product, which he created with his wife Arlene Harris, is an ultra-simple phone for seniors called the Jitterbug.

“I hate the concept of trying to build a universal device that does all things for all people, because then it doesn’t do any of them very well,” Cooper said. “I think what is going to happen in the future is more customization, more personalization. We all are different and we ought to be able to customize and have a phone that does exactly what we want it to do – that is so easy to use that we don’t even have to think about it. That’s what the dream is.”

What technology do you envision for the future? Tell us in the comments or join the conversation on Facebook.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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