‘Devastated to see..’ 50 years on, Mobile phone inventor Martin Cooper calls out people’s smartphone addiction


In today’s time, life without mobile phones seems to be an impossible task. The device which was made to make communication easier and faster has now become an addiction to people. This has made the ‘Father of the cell phone’ worried. Martin Cooper, an American engineer who is dubbed as the “Father of the cell phone” has said the problem with mobile phones is that people look at them too much. 

He added that he is devastated to see somebody crossing the street and still looking at their cell phone. “They are out of their minds,” the 94-year-old told news agency AFP. “But after a few people get run over by cars, they’ll figure it out,” he joked.

However, he also added that mobile phones continue to improve people’s lives. The inventor also said in the future, cell phone would be able to revolutionise education, healthcare. “The cell phone has now become an extension of the person, it can do so many more things,” he said. “And in that regard, we are just at the very beginning. We’re just starting to understand what that could do. “In the future, we can expect the cell phone to revolutionize education, it will revolutionize healthcare.”

“I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but I want you to know within a generation or two, we are going to conquer disease.” Just like his watch monitors his heartrate while he swims, and his phone monitors his hearing aids, phones will one day be connected to an array of bodily sensors that will catch illness before it develops, he said.

Cooper’s iPhone which he said he likes to use mostly to speak to people is certainly a very long way from the weighty block of wires and circuits that he used to make the very first mobile phone call on April 3, 1973.

At the time Cooper was working for Motorola and leading a team of designers and engineers who were engaged to come up with the first properly mobile technology and avoid being squeezed out of an up-and-coming market. The company had invested millions of dollars in the project, hoping to beat out Bell System, a behemoth that dominated US telecoms for more than a century from its inception in 1877.

Bell’s engineers had floated the idea of a cellular phone system just after World War II, and by the late 1960s had taken it as far as putting phones in cars — partially because of the huge battery they needed. But for Cooper, that didn’t represent real mobility. At the tail end of 1972, he decided he wanted a device that you could use anywhere. He added that at Motorola, he pulled together experts on semiconductors, transistors, filters and antennae who worked around the clock for three months.

“This phone weighed over a kilo — about two and a half pounds — and had a battery life of roughly 25 minutes of talking,” he said. “That was not a problem. This phone was so heavy, you couldn’t hold it up for 25 minutes,” he told AFP.

He added that phone call didn’t have to be long, it just had to be work. He added that first mobile phones were not cheap at around $5,000 per handset, but they granted early adopters — who Cooper said included people trying to sell property. “It turns out that what real estate people do is they show people houses, or they answer the phone for new clients. “Now they could do both at the same time; it doubled their productivity.”

He added that its a long way from where it started with that monster handset. “There are more mobile phone subscriptions in the world today than there are people. So that part of our dream has come true.” Speaking of challenges, he added new technology often throws up challenges. “When television first came out, people were just hypnotized.” “But we somehow… managed to understand that there is a quality associated with looking at a television,” he told AFP. “Right now, we’re at the mindless staring phase with our phones, but that won’t last. Each generation is going to be smarter… They will learn how to use the cell phone more effectively.” “Humans sooner or later figure it out,” he said.

(With inputs from AFP)

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