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History of Mobile Phones

A mobile phone is now, part and parcel of our lives. The sudden focus on the necessity for consistent communication has witnessed growth, from a simple hand phone to a 'touch screen' wonder. The history of the mobile phone is very interesting.
Mobile phones are also referred to as hand phones, wireless, cell phones, and cellular telephones. The device is hand held and even hands-free today, thanks to dedicated gizmo technology and market demand. The gadget is basically a long-range device designed for data communication within a predetermined network of cell sites, assisted by a cell phone battery. Today, the cell phone supports a number of services and cell phone accessories. These include text messaging, email, internet gaming, packet switching, cameras, video recorders, Bluetooth, radios, MP3 players and even dedicated GPS tracking devices. The connectivity is facilitated thus:
  1. The hand set connects to a cellular network
  2. The network operates within predetermined base stations or cell sites
  3. The connectivity is the result of the interconnected PSTN or public switched telephone network
Odyssey of Mobile Phones

The history of the mobile phone dates back to 1908. The Patent 887,357 was issued to a wireless telephone invented by Nathan B. Stubblefield of Kentucky, USA. The patent was applied to a cave-radio phone. It was not until 1947 that the base stations were designed. The invention came from the laboratory of Bell's engineers at AT&T. The invention took on a new look and form during the 1960s. Reginald Fessenden is credited with the invention and use of mobile phones for communicating via the radio. The initial shore-to-ship communication during World War II was also explored by civil services in the 1950s. However, hand-held devices, like what we use today, have only been around since 1973. The first modern wireless mobile phone was the result of a patent issued to George Sweigert of Ohio, USA, in 1969.

Stepping a little back in time, the world witnessed the release of what was called the zero generation mobile telephones in 1945. The 0G mobile were not cellular and hence did not accommodate communication within a network of base stations or radio frequency. The base station was powerful, but covered only one wide area. The use of radio frequency and channel monopoly was part of the 1979 patent issued to Charles A. Gladden and Martin H. Parelman of Nevada, USA.

Thus, the invention of the analog cell phone developed to become the result of nothing less than 34 patents thereafter! Designed and updated satellite communication systems and a state-of-the-art digital system resulted in our modern cell phones. Martin Cooper of Motorola is credited with the first ever practical mobile phone fitted with a radio telephone system. The handset then was heavy, but portable and operated within a commercial cellular network. The first such cellular network was launched in Japan, in 1979 and subsequently, the automatic cellular networks were introduced in the 1980s.

The first FCC approved mobile phone was marketed in 1983, by Motorola phones, under the 'DynaTAC' brand. The first phone that accommodated multiple and centrally controlled cell sites was marketed by Bell Labs in 1984. This led to extended conversations even as the device traveled from one cellular network to another via variable transmission powers within the base stations. With this design the sizes of the cell phones and the covered range began to vary, according to customer demands. The presence of tall site towers, absence of antennae and shrinking cell sizes have facilitated the extensive use of network technology. The second generation technology in cellular communication is credited to the in-house efforts at Radiolinja in Finland, in 1991.

Thereafter, the 'firsts' included:
  • Data services on mobile phones and SMS text messaging via dedicated cell phone plans, in 1993, in Finland.
  • Trial payments via the mobile phone, again in Finland, in 1998.
  • Commercial payments for electronics and commodities, in Norway, in 1999.
  • Sale of ringtones, in Finland, in 1998.
  • Internet access via i-Mode, by NTT DoCoMo, Japan, in 1999.
Today, the mobile phone is not only miniaturized by the day, it also flaunts digital components, such as mobile games that are sophisticated and versatile.
By Gaynor Borade
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