40 years ago, on April 3rd 1973, Martin Cooper, then at Motorola, made the first call, using a DynaTAC prototype ‘brick’ style phone, to the landline of Joel Engell, who worked for competitor Bell Labs. As he recalled, “I called and told him, ‘Joel, I’m calling you from a cellular phone, a real cellular phone, a handheld, portable, real cellular phone.’”
Most mobile telephones available before then had been installed in trucks and automobiles, working first off AT&T’s early wireless network, and then off the ‘cellular’ system using multiple transmitters in a hexagonal grid. But as Martin Cooper said, “We believed people didn’t want to talk to cars.”
As far as he is concerned, Motorola ‘brick’ changed the very nature of a phone call. “It used to be when you made a phone call you were calling a place, and now you call a person.”
You used to call a place and now you call a person. I heard Martin say this a few years ago when he key noted some conference I’ve long since forgotten the name of. It seemed so simple and rather obvious at the time, of course you call a person. But, what Martin was saying is fundamental to Mobile Identity. People are attached to their mobile phones and their phone number will connect directly to them.
As Martin once said in a BBC interview, they saw the cellular phone, the personal telephone, as “something that would represent an individual so you could assign a number not to a place, not to a desk, not to a home, but to a person.”
They saw the potential of mobile identity even then. “We knew even in 1973 that someday everybody would have a cell phone,” said Cooper. “We used to tell a joke that someday when you were born you’d be assigned a telephone number, and if you didn’t answer the phone, you died.”
Well of course, ‘died’ is putting it strongly, but Martin was right that nearly everyone would have a cell phone. In fact, we’re nearly there and many online services providers are leveraging the pervasiveness of the mobile phone to protect our online lives. Follow these links to learn more about Mobile Identity or phone-based two-factor authentication.