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First Cellular Phone Call Was Made 45 Years Ago

The prototype mobile ‘shoe' phone weighed 2 1/2 pounds

Motorola executive demonstrates the first cell phone

Bettmann/Getty Images

A Motorola executive demonstrates a "shoe" phone in New York City. The first phone call made on a handheld cellular phone was made on April 3, 1973.

The first handheld cellular phone call was made on April 3, 1973, by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper from Sixth Avenue in New York while walking between 53rd and 54th streets.

Cooper hoisted the 2 1/2-pound prototype to his ear and called a rival, Joel Engel of Bell Laboratories at AT&T, to declare that his Motorola team had devised a functional portable phone. “There was silence at the other end of the line,” Cooper recalled to Bloomberg in 2015. “To this day, Joel doesn’t remember that call, and I’m not sure I blame him.”

The clunky “shoe” phone, almost as big as a shoebox, allowed a user to talk for 35 minutes and required 10 hours to recharge, according to Wired magazine.

Motorola spent 10 years overcoming technical and regulatory hurdles, and began commercial service in 1983 using a slimmer 16-ounce model that cost between $3,500 and $4,000.

The early phones were too big and expensive to suit most consumers, but they set a precedent for today’s sleek and lightweight models that have become standard equipment for just about everybody.

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