40 Years of Cell Phones: Have they Changed Your Life?

It may be hard to believe, but this week we celebrate forty years of cell phones. The first cell phone call was placed in 1973, but these devices didn’t begin to change our lives until the last ten to fifteen years. Think of how different our lives would be today had former Motorola Vice President and division manager Martin Cooper not made that first call on a cell phone while standing on Sixth Avenue in front of the New York Hilton.

Cooper touched something off with that call, even if it did take several years before they began to impact all of our lives. He was using Motorola’s DynaTAC handset. It was so different than the Androids and iPhones that we use today that it weighed over two pounds. It certainly didn’t fit in Cooper’s pocket, and there was no talk of how big the screen was or the resolution of the camera. It was just a phone, and a big one at that.

Even Cooper is surprised at all the changes that have been made to cell phones over these forty years, yet he sees all these additional things added to cell phones as “essentially useless.” He beleives all the things today’s cell phone can do can be done much more effectively elsewhere. This is true, but you still can’t beat the convenience.


In these forty years of cell phones, they have gone from huge devices meant solely for making and receiving calls on-the-go to pocket-sized devices that can do nearly everything a computer can do. While Cooper is thinking that all of these things on a cell phone are “essentially useless,” I’m thinking of how all these things have changed my life.

I don’t have to worry about carrying a camera to special events. I always have one with me on my iPhone. If I’m out shopping and want to buy something, but I’m not sure how much money is left in the checking account, I can check that on a bank app. While I’m waiting at a doctor’s office, I don’t have to read their magazines; I can either get work done or read my own magazine on my iPhone. I know where my kids are, because we keep in touch via our cell phones. And I don’t have to go as far as to call someone every time I want them to know just a little thing that just occurred to me. I can text them instead.


I went out to dinner one night last week and forgot to bring my phone. I noticed it within five minutes of being gone, but didn’t want to go back for it. I didn’t want it just in case someone called. I wanted to be able to text the people we were meeting up with to tell them we’d be late. I wanted it to snap some pictures of the gathering. I wanted to check my calendar for appointments for the following week and wanted to check my email. I was lost without it.

In these forty years of cell phones, they have completely changed my life, and I think they have changed most others as well and become more than just a phone with features that aren’t “essentially useless.” What do you think? Have cell phones changed your life or do you mainly just use it as a phone and see all the other options as useless?

Martin Cooper image source: By 2007Computex_e21Forum-MartinCooper.jpg: Rico Shen derivative work: PowellS

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