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‘Father of the Cell Phone’ publishes book on history and future of the cell phone

Almost 50 years after he was part of a team that developed the first mobile phone, Martin Cooper is focused on the innovations still to be achieved.

Martin Cooper
Marty Cooper
(Courtesy)

“I have a belief that the cell phone has just started its process of evolution and we’re going to be very surprised at what happens in the future,” said Cooper, who is based in Del Mar and recognized as the “Father of the Cell Phone.”

Cooper released a book, “Cutting the Cord,” about the obstacles he and a team at Motorola had to overcome before he finally made the first-ever mobile phone call in New York City in the early 1970s. Cooper also explores the potential for how cell phones can continue to pave the way for innovations in areas such as education and health care, particularly in developing countries.

"Cutting the Cord" book cover
(Courtesy)

The cell phone itself has also morphed into an all-purpose device in ways that no one could have predicted 50 years ago.

“We did not predict the cell phone would become a personal computer because when I created the first cell phone there were no personal computers,” Cooper said. “There were no digital cameras and the large-scale integrated circuit hadn’t been invented yet. We did know that someday everybody would have a phone, a personal phone that you could move around with.”

He added that “it’s not a phone anymore, it’s really an appliance that does a whole bunch of things.”

One of the biggest hurdles Cooper and his team had to overcome was industry consensus that car phones would be the next big thing.

“When you invent something, the eureka moment is a myth,” Cooper said. “It took a long time for me to understand the idea that people have a desperate need to communicate. The requirement to have a pair of wires is almost like a prison. It locks you into your home or office.”

But Cooper envisioned a future in which people could communicate without being tethered to their homes, offices or cars.

“People had this natural tendency to be free, to want to be everywhere, to be able to travel and talk,” he said. “I just knew that once people got that feeling of freedom that they would embrace the idea and we would win.”

Cooper also noted how the cell phone has helped facilitate life during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more work and social gatherings taking place remotely.

Cooper and his wife, Arlene Harris, have cofounded numerous wireless technology companies. Cooper is currently chairman of Dyna LLC and a member of the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council. He was the first to observe the Law of Spectrum Capacity, which became known as Cooper’s Law.

Cooper has won numerous honors, including the Marconi Prize “for being a wireless visionary who reshaped the concept of mobile communication.” He has been inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame and Wireless History Foundation’s Wireless Hall of Fame. In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the “100 Best Inventors in History.”

Cooper, who grew up in Chicago, the son of Ukrainian immigrants, also served in the US Navy as a submarine officer during the Korean conflict.

“Cutting the Cord” is available in hardcopy, ebook and audiobook. For more information, visit martycooper.com.


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