The Cell Phone Timeline

1843 Micheal Faraday a talented chemist begins researching the possibility that space can conduct electricity. His research starts the wheels turning for many other 19th century scientists. At the time, many of them were referred to as “crackpots”.

1865 A Virginia Dentist/Scientist, Dr. Mahlon Loomis, develops a method of communicating through the earth’s atmosphere by using an electrical conductor. He does this by flying two kites, that are rigged with copper screens and wires, which are connected to the ground on two separate mountains about 18 miles apart. He later received a grant from the U.S. Congress for $50,000. (A fairly large chunk of change for 1865)

1866 The first trans-Atlantic telegraph is built (not much to do with cell phones, but a major advancement in communication nonetheless)

1921 The Police Department in Detroit, Mich. begins installing mobile radios, operating around 2 MHz, in their squad cars. They encounter many problems such as overcrowding on the channels and terrible interference.

1934 The U.S. Congress creates the Federal Communications Commission. They decide who gets to use certain radio frequencies. Most channels are reserved for emergency use and for the government. Radio is still a baby.

1940’s By now, the mobile radios are able to operate at 30 to 40 MHz and become much more common between police departments, and the wealthy. Several private companies and organizations begin using these same radios for personal gain.

1945 The first mobile-radio-telephone service is established in St. Louis, Miss. The system is comprised of six channels that add up to 150 MHz. The project is approved by the FCC, but due to massive interference, the equipment barely works.

1947 AT&T comes out with the first radio-car-phones that can be used only on the highway between New York and Boston; they are known as push-to-talk phones. The system operates at frequencies of about 35 to 44 MHz, but once again there is a massive amount of interference in the system. AT&T declares the project a failure.

1949 The FCC authorizes the widespread use of many separate radio channels to other carriers. They are know as Radio Common Carriers (RCC) and are the first link between mobile phones and the telephone, rather than just radio to radio. The RCC's are the first step toward the cellular phone industry, which is were designed more for profit than for the general public.

1956 The first real car phones, not car radios, come into play accross the United States. Although, the system is still using push-to-talk phones, it is an improved version that acctually works. However, the units are big and bulky, and require a personal radio operator to switch the calls. A simular system appeared in Sweden a few years earlier.

1964 A new operating system is developed that operates on a single channel at 150 MHz. In essence, this removes the need for push-to-talk operators. Now customers can dial phone numbers directly from their cars. RCC's are finally taken seriously by the FCC as ligitimate competitors to the land-line phone companies.

1969 The self-dialing capability is now upgraded to 450 MHz and becomes standard in the United States. This new service is known as (IMTS) Improved mobile telephone service.

1970 Cell phone lobbyists finally win with the FCC and get a window of 75 MHz in the 800 MHz region, which allocated specifically for cell phones. The FCC realizes the potential of the industry and can’t ignore it any longer.

1971 AT&T is the first company to propose a modern-day mobile-phone system to the FCC. It involves dividing cities into “cells”. It is the first company to do so.

1973 Dr. Martin Cooper invents the first personal handset while working for Motorola. He takes his new invention, the Motorola Dyna-Tac., to New York City and shows it to the public. His is credited with being the first person to make a call on a portable mobile-phone.

1974 The FCC actually starts to encourage cell phone companies to push forward the “cellular idea”. But unfortunately a law suit arises with Western Electric, who is the closest company to succeeding at the time, and it rules that they are not allowed to manufacture terminal and network phone systems under the same roof. This is an effort to prevent a monopoly. But it also prevents progress.

1975 AT&T adapts its own cellular plan for the city of Chicago, but the FCC is still uneasy about putting the plan into action. They have concerns about its success.

1977 Finally cell phone testing is permitted by the FCC in Chicago. The Bell Telephone Company gets the license; they are in a partnership with AT&T which is a gerneral effort to battle the stubborn FCC.

1981 The FCC makes firm rules about the growing cell phone industry in dealing with manufactures. It finally rules that Western Electric can manufacture products for both cellular and terminal use. (Basically they admit that they put the phone companies about 7 years behind)

1988 One of the most important years in cell phone evolution. The Cellular Technology Industry Association is created and helps to make the industry into an empire. One of its biggest contributions is when it helped create TDMA phone technology, the most evolved cell phone yet. It becomes available to the public in 1991.

2001 BellSouth announces that it is leaving the pay phone business because there is too much competition from cell phones.



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Copyright © 2004 Robert D. Keith All rights reserved