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Thread: Explores the story behind the first mobile handsets

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    Explores the story behind the first mobile handsets

    Today virtually everyone has a mobile phone. Yet, at the start of the 1980s it was just a dream, something that appeared only in science fiction. Just a decade later, though, new innovations, advanced technology and interactional networking standards would bring about a communication revolution.

    MTS

    As far back as 1947 AT&T had a commercial product called the Mobile Telephone Service (MTS). Restricted by the technology of the period, MTS was primitive, expensive and bulky - weighing in at a hefty 36kg.

    Connections were set up manually by operators, and users had to press a button to speak, then release it to listen. Critically. MTS had just three radio frequencies, so only three people could use the network simultaneously. Nevertheless, by 1948 MTS had thousands of customers, covering around 100 US towns and highway corridors.


    IMTS
    By 1965 AT&T had an Improved MTS (IMTS) network up and running. Additional radio channels enabled higher numbers of simultaneous calls, users dialed numbers for themselves and the equipment was smaller and lighter. The problem was that IMTS still simply wasn't able to meet consumer demand. In New York alone there were 2,000 customers who has to share just 12 radio channels - often waiting up to 30 minutes to place a call.

    Motorola
    It was Motorola who introduced the first truly handheld mobile phone. Communication visionary and Motorola employee Martin Cooper made the first call from a handheld unit in early April 1973. During the associated press conference, Cooper stated his vision was to manufacture Star Trek Communicator-like devices. This prototype handset was still a substantial 1.1kg brick-like device and, while talk time was limited to 30 minutes, it took 10 hours to recharge.
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    The first commercial product appeared 10 years later as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. Priced at almost $4000 it offered just 30 minutes of talk-time, six hours of standby and storage for 30 phone numbers.


    Nokia
    By the end of the 1980s American telecommunication companies had an ambitious European rival. It came in the form of Nokia, a Finnish company previously known for manufacturing, paper and rubber galoshes. Its first handheld phone was the Mobira Cityman 900. Released in 1987, it was a little easier to carry around (at under 800g), but it but still cost a few thousands of pounds.

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    Critically, Nokia was also heavily involved in the design and development of the second-generation cellular networking standard. Known as Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) its launch in the early 1990s was a seminal event in mobile phone technology.


    GSM Phones

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    Mobiles based on the GSM standard had many advantages: handsets operated in over 14 different countries, the devices themselves could be smaller, lighter and cheaper and users could send short text messages (SMS) as well as high-quality voice calls. Nokia's first GSM mobile phone was the SMS-enabled 2110. Motorola soon responded, with its MicroTAC, which had a flip-down mouthpiece that made is look remarkably similar that Star Trek Communicator it'd talk about some 14 years before.
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    GSM was dominant throughout the 1990s and well into the new millennium. Insatiable consumer demand caused exponential growth, which resulted in billions of subscribers, hundreds of network operators and a presence that spanned the globe.

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    Good information.

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