The Current

Cellphone inventor Martin Cooper: Smartphones aren't optimal

When Martin Cooper made the first ever call on a mobile phone, he had no idea he was spearheading a cellular revolution. The ripple effects of his invention exceeded his expectations, surprising everyone with the sweeping changes its brought to our lives.
(Yorick Jansens/AFP/Getty Images)
Listen25:17

Think back to the 1950s and '60s, and it was the race to space that captured headlines and imaginations.

By the 1970s, though, a different technological contest had begun: the race to dominate the world of personal communications.

And by the 1980s, "cellular radio telephones" were making their debut.

Well, that early ad for cellular phones is quite the throwback, successfully predicting a communication revolution. But even tech pioneers couldn't have predicted the cellphone's far-reaching effects on our lives.

As part of our project Ripple Effect, we're exploring the unintended consequences of the cellphone and asking where its successor, the smartphone, is headed next.

Martin Cooper became known as the "father of the cellphone" after he and his team at Motorola developed technology that allowed him to make the first cellphone call. Cooper was in Del Mar, California.