Who Made That Cellphone?
By PAGAN KENNEDY
“We wanted to do a dazzling demonstration,” Martin Cooper says of the day in 1973 when he stood outside the Manhattan Hilton and fiddled with an object that was nearly the size of a child’s boot. “I had this thing with push-buttons on it, and I was talking into it,” he remembers. A crowd gathered around him on Sixth Avenue, gawking as he demonstrated how to make a call from the sidewalk — with no phone booth and no wires.
After the stunt, Cooper — who was head of the communications-systems division at Motorola — met with journalists inside the Hilton. The first cellphone, weighing more than two pounds, had all the sex appeal of a doorstop. Still, it was a triumph of engineering. To prove that the phone wasn’t an elaborate fake, he handed it around. One reporter called Australia and was astonished when her mother’s voice came out of the plastic-covered device.
“I have a mantra that people are naturally, fundamentally and inherently mobile,” Cooper says. While working on car phones, he imagined a world in which people would carry the devices on their bodies — and he liked to joke that “when you were born, you would be assigned a phone number.” That idea seemed wildly futuristic in the 1960s, when car phones needed 30-pound batteries. But by the early 1970s, “the electronics had improved,” he says. “We could get by with a small battery and very small parts, and you could actually carry the phone with you.”
It would be another decade before you could actually buy one. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, left, went on sale in 1983 for about $4,000 — and became a symbol of yuppie excess. In the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” Gordon Gekko strolls on the beach at sunrise and snarls into his brick-size phone, “This is your wake-up call, pal.” Soon enough, everyone else would get the wake-up call, too.
SPYING ON YOURSELF
Alex Pentland, director of the Human Dynamics Lab at M.I.T., studies cellphone data for clues about our behavior.
The phone tracks our movements, as well as our calls and texts, so it can reveal a lot about our daily lives. What did you learn about yourself by studying your own cellphone data? That I’m very predictable. We tend to pay attention only to the new things in our lives. Meanwhile, our habits are invisible to us. You may say you don’t always eat Tex-Mex food, but if you’re always at the Tex-Mex restaurant, I’d have to disagree.
If you were to look at my cellphone data, could you predict where I’ll be next Tuesday? Probably.
In a recent study, you looked at people’s cellphone data and found that their behavior changed just before they reported feeling sick. Yes. It turns out that all of us have very consistent responses when we’re getting the flu. We move around more before we come down with the illness — it’s that last gasp of activity before you get really sick.
You asked the people in your study to tell you how many hours they slept. Did you discover anything when you put together the sleep logs with calls, texts and other cellphone data? It turns out that there’s a strong correlation between social stimulation and good sleep. If you don’t sleep well, you are more likely to be a hermit. Some of the people in our study discovered that the correlation was very strong for them — they needed good sleep in order to be social. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/magazine/who-made-that-cellphone.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130316&_r=0