The first phone call was 75 years ago – what it takes for technologies to go from breakthrough to peak


I have a cell phone built into my watch. People now take this kind of technology for granted, but it wasn’t that long ago that it was decidedly science fiction. The transition from fantasy to reality was far from a simple switch. The time, money, talent, and effort it took to put a phone on my wrist stretched far beyond anyone’s product development cycle.

People who crossed a wristwatch with a cell phone have worked hard for several years to make this happen, but technological development is really happening on a decades-long time scale. As the latest stages of technological development grab headlines, it takes thousands of scientists and engineers working for decades on a myriad of technologies to get to the point where successful products begin to capture the public imagination. .

The first mobile phone service, for 80 pound phones installed in cars, was introduced on June 17, 1946, 75 years ago. The service was only available in major cities and highway corridors and was aimed at businesses rather than individuals. Equipment filled much of the trunk of a car, and subscribers made calls by lifting the handset and talking to a switchboard operator. In 1948, the service had 5,000 customers. The first portable cell phone was introduced in 1973, almost three decades after the introduction of the first mobile phone service. It was almost three decades later before half of America’s population had cellphones.

A Big Story in Small Packages As an electrical engineer, I know that today’s mobile phone technology has a remarkable number of components, each with a long development path. The phone has antennas and electronic components that transmit and receive signals. It has a specialized computer processor that uses advanced algorithms to convert information into signals that can be transmitted over the air. These algorithms have hundreds of component algorithms. Each of these technologies and many more have development histories that span decades.

A common thread running through the evolution of virtually all electronic technology is miniaturization. The radio transmitters, computer processors and batteries at the heart of your mobile phone are the descendants of generations of these technologies which have become successively smaller and lighter.

The phone itself wouldn’t be of much use without the cellular base stations and all the network infrastructure behind them. Early mobile phone services used a small number of large radio towers, which meant that all subscribers in a large city shared a central base station. It was not a recipe for universal mobile phone service.

Engineers began working on a concept to overcome this problem around the time the first mobile phone service saw the light of day, and it took nearly four decades to roll out the first cell phone service in 1983. The Cellular service involves interconnected networks of small radio transceivers that transfer move callers from one transceiver to another.

Military Necessity Your cell phone is the result of over a hundred years of commercial and government investment in research and development of all its components and related technologies. Much of the advanced development has been funded by the military.

A major impetus for the development of mobile wireless technologies was the need during World War II for troops to communicate on the move in the field. The SRC-536 Handie-Talkie was developed by the predecessor of Motorola Corporation and used by the US military during the war. The Handie-Talkie was a two-way radio small enough to fit in one hand and resembling a telephone. Motorola has become one of the leading manufacturers of cell phones.

The story of military investment in technology becoming revolutionary business products and services has been repeated over and over again. Famous, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency developed the technologies behind the Internet and speech recognition. But DARPA has also made investments in advanced communication algorithms, processor technology, electronics miniaturization, and many other aspects of your phone.

Looking Ahead By realizing that it takes decades of research and investment to develop each generation of technology, it is possible to get a sense of what might become of it. Today’s communication technologies – 5G, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. – are fixed standards, which means that they are each designed for a single purpose. But over the past 30 years, the Department of Defense and businesses have invested in better and more flexible technologies.

Your phone in the near future might not only signal smoother more efficiently, allow longer ranges or higher data rates, or last much longer with a charge, it might also use that radio frequency energy to perform operations. other functions. For example, your communications signal can also be used as a radar signal to track your hand gestures to control your phone, measure the size of a room, or even monitor your heart rate to predict heart distress.

It is always difficult to predict where the technology will go, but I can guarantee that future technology will be based on decades and decades of research and development.

(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


About Cecil Cobb

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