The Guinness World Records claims that “the Most durable mobile phone number (cellular phone number) belongs to David Contorno, of Lemont, Illinois, who has owned and used the same mobile telephone number since 2 August 1985. His first mobile phone was an Ameritech AC140 and his carrier has been Ameritech Mobile Communications ever since.”
These days, Ameritech Mobile Communications is better known as AT&T. And on October 13, 1983, they set up the first public cellular mobile telephone network in the United States, in Chicago, IL.
As of January 1, 1984, Ameritech Mobile Communications provided landline telephone service to the Great Lakes region of the U.S. Within a few years, several corporate mergers and sell-offs would change the face and ownership of the company. But the cell service remained.
As ubiquitous as hand-held, go-anywhere phones are today, not too long ago they were the thing of movies, movie stars, and high-level government employees. And even then, they weren’t small, and they didn’t do anything other than make phone calls and—in some cases—send very basic text messages.
The telecommunications industry is one of the broadest-reaching industries extant today. Indeed, telecommunications technology reaches beyond the planet itself, to the stars. The vast majority of satellites in orbit around Earth are either directly or indirectly related to the telecom industry, and they are all involved in a telecom function (as they transmit data wirelessly to the Earth). Every satellite we send spinning out into the void sends its data back via telecom. Your cellular phone, your high-speed internet, your digital “cable” are all telecom.
Not too long ago, wireless telecom was the next big thing. This is where your cell phones come in: No wires. No cables. All air.
Sit on any bus or train in any city in the world—from Tokyo to Tangier—and people are on their cell phones. Scrolling, reading, trolling.
Eric Tigerstedt, a Finnish inventor, filed a patent for a pocket-sized telephone that folded and had a “very thin carbon microphone.” Tigerstedt did this in 1917.
The first publicized handheld mobile phone call was made on 4 April 1973. Martin Cooper, who is considered the Father of the Handheld Cellphone, made that call. While working at Motorola, he invented the first production cellphone. And it took his team 10 years to get it marketed.
According to the U.N., cellular tech and hardware (mobile networks and phones) have spread faster than any other form of technology. The U.N. also asserts that cell telecoms can improve the plight of impoverished people in developing countries.
Knowledge is not power. But knowledge can lead to power—at least more power than you have now. Information is the building block of knowledge. Cellular communication networks and devices allow you to literally grab information from the air around you. From what is happening right this moment (nearly anywhere on the planet) to learning about the first civilizations at the dawn of recorded history. Communicating with your close family a village away, or chatting with a complete stranger on the opposite side of the globe. All of it, a few swipes away.
October 13 is one of those days you can say that if this moment in history never occurred, the world you live in right now would be an absolutely different place. And as you read this—some of you through wireless telecom—remember that some of us had to grow up with rotary telephones, actual physical libraries, and a TV with only a dozen channels (in black and white).