The Truth About The First Cell Phone Call

"Can you hear me now? Wait. How about now? Wait. Now? Can you hear me?" And that was just two kids with a string and a couple of tin cans. (It really was a thing, says the Education web site.) The Pony Express took 10 days to cover 1,800 miles, from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, during its 18 months of existence, says the National Park Service. It's a all a far cry from today, when it seems as though everyone has a smartphone, a communications device not tethered to a wall, that places the sum of human knowledge at your fingertips, plays recorded audio and video, records audio and video, tells time, keeps your calendar, tracks your calorie count and your steps, and — oh, yeah: makes phone calls.

There was a time when they weren't. But everything has to start someplace. You can make the argument that it goes back to Alexander Graham Bell, credited with inventing the first practical telephone, whose voice was transmitted over wires, telling his assistant, "Come here, I want to see you," says Biography. That was in 1876. Later that year he demonstrated his invention at the Centennial Exhibit in Philadelphia, where the Emperor of Brazil exclaimed, "My God, it talks!" By 1915 Bell was making transcontinental phone calls. (He also set a world speed record for hydrofoils. The man was nothing if not eclectic.)

It took some years for cell phones to grow down

Humans being humans, we want things faster, smaller, cheaper, more convenient. Radios were all well and good, but limited. It wasn't until nearly 100 years after Bell that the first handheld cellular phone call was placed. The date was April 3, 1973, says The Atlantic, and Martin Cooper, an employee of Motorola, used a prototype to place a call from New York City to — and this is fun — the Bell Labs in New Jersey, a corporate competitor, according to Mental Floss. The prototype weighed 2.5 pounds and took 10 hours to charge, which allowed the user to talk for all of 35 minutes, says AARP.

Everybody remembers Bell's words over his first phone; the first telegram transmitted "What God hath wrought"; the first text message, in 1992, was "Merry Christmas," as Quartz reports. The exact wording of the first cell phone call is lost to history. According to Cooper, his vague memory is, "'I'm ringing you just to see if my call sounds good at your end,' or something to that effect." You know — "can you hear me now?"