Marty Cooper honored in Carmel Valley 50 years after placing the world’s first cell phone call

Marty Cooper, with his wife Arlene Harris
Marty Cooper, with his wife Arlene Harris, was honored for the 50th anniversary of the date he placed the first cell phone call.
(Luke Harold)

On April 3, 1973, Marty Cooper made the world’s first cell phone call in New York City after he and his team at Motorola invented the technology. Since then, he’s been known as “the father of the cell phone.”

That first clunky, brick-like device has evolved into the sleeker iPhones, Androids and other smartphones that have revolutionized the world.

On March 23, Cooper, who lives in Del Mar, was honored during a TiE South Coast meeting in Carmel Valley as the 50th anniversary approaches. TiE is a nonprofit that helps support local entrepreneurs.

“If you look at where we are today, the world is healthier, wealthier, we live longer, we have more technologies and more opportunities,” said Cooper, a charter member of TiE South Coast. “If you think about the other side of the coin, we have a few problems. What better generation do we have than the youngsters today, who, thank goodness, they’re smarter than we were. Let’s hope that they have the tools and the opportunities to fix these problems and make a better world. That’s what it’s all about.”

Cooper also received the first-ever Global Mobile 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award in Barcelona earlier this year.

In his book, “Cutting the Cord,” Cooper wrote about the obstacles he and his team at Motorola had to overcome before placing that first call. Since then, the cell phone has evolved into a type of personal computer that nobody predicted at the time. But they knew people wanted a way to communicate without being tethered to the landlines in their homes, or car phones that were gaining in popularity.

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

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

Suren Dutia, another charter member of TiE South Coast, credited Cooper with the “guts” to see the project through.

“It’s one thing to have dreams,” Dutia said. “But it’s another to take action and turn that dream into a reality. The road to success is littered with obstacles. So most people give up and turn around. But not Marty.”