American engineer Martin Cooper, inventor of the cellphone, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. EFE/Alejandro Garcia

Cellphone inventor Martin Cooper: We’re only at the very beginning

By Xavi Díaz

Barcelona, Spain 4 (EFE).- The lead inventor of the cellphone, Martin Cooper, believes the device has become an extension of our person but imagines a future where our phones are adapted to each user or even integrated into our bodies.

Cooper, 94, will go down in history as the first person ever to make a call on a wireless telephone, back on April 3, 1973.

Some 50 years later, he joined EFE for an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the largest cellphone technology fair of its kind.

That first cellphone call turned out to be something of a prank call.

Cooper, with his Motorola DynaTac8000X, decided to ring up his competitor Joel Engel, who at the time was working toward the same goal at Bell Laboratories.

“I wanted to rub his nose in this,” he said. “‘Joel,’ I said. ‘I’m calling you from a mobile phone. But a real mobile phone, a personal hand-held mobile phone’.”

Cooper, quite rightly, is regarded as a celebrity at the MWC.

A lot has changed since that first cellphone call, made on a brick-like device that took 10 hours to charge and had 30 minutes of battery life.

Yet Cooper believes more change is yet to come.

American engineer Martin Cooper, inventor of the cellphone, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. EFE/Alejandro Garcia


“I don’t like smartphones very much. I don’t think they’re very smart,” he said. “But somehow they will be improved so that they are smart in the future.”

The engineer is of the opinion that modern cellphones lean too much toward catering for the general public and that they should be more personalized, serving our individual needs.

Cooper acknowledged some of the negative aspects of the modern phone industry, from the lack of privacy to screen addiction, but believes the positives outweigh the negatives.

“I think we are only at the very beginning,” he said. “I think there is the potential for connectivity, the fact that the phone has become the extension of the person, I think we will solve the most important problems of the world,” he said.

He listed three areas where he believes the phones of the future can improve humanity — poverty, education and health.

“In the future, because the phone is the extension of the person, it will be measuring you all the time, and when you start to get sick, before you’re even sick, your phone will transmit that information to some computer, you will be told to go see a doctor or given some cure, and the disease won’t happen,” he said.


Describing his ideal cellphone, Cooper raised his hand to his right ear.

“For me the ideal phone is invented under your skin, near your ear, it’s got a computer in it, it does not need a battery, because your body is a battery, right? You ingest food, the food creates energy, you can use a bit of energy to run the phone,” he said.

“And when you want to talk to somebody you say ‘get me Joe on the phone’ (…) and the next thing you’re talking to him instead of picking up this piece of plastic and putting it up against your head and holding it up in an uncomfortable position,” he added.

Cooper said that, ideally, we will use patches in our body to communicate with our phone and that the technology will also be able to read our genetics to offer foresight on any potential health problems we may have.

Asked whether such body implants could be dangerous to a person’s health, he points to his own body.

“I have an artificial knee, I have teeth that are artificial, my contacts (…) the fact is, human beings have better brains than most living things, but in most other respects we are defective, we don’t smell as well as a dog can smell, we can’t see as well as a bird can see,” he said.

“So we shouldn’t we have things that are part of our bodies that improve our ability to adapt to the world.”EFE