Father of ‘brick’ mobile phone Marty Cooper sees dark side but also hope in new tech ‘distributed on your body’

Father of ‘brick’ mobile phone Marty Cooper sees dark side but also hope in new tech ‘distributed on your body’

Holding the bulky brick cellular phone he’s credited with inventing 50 years ago, Martin Cooper thinks about the future.

Little did he know when he made the first call on a New York City street from a thick grey prototype that our world — and our information — would come to be encapsulated on a sleek glass sheath where we search, connect, like and buy.

He’s optimistic that future advances in mobile technology can transform human lives but is also worried about risks smartphones pose to privacy and young people.

“My most negative opinion is we don’t have any privacy anymore because everything about us is now recorded someplace and accessible to somebody who has enough intense desire to get it,” the 94-year-old told The Associated Press at MWC, or Mobile World Congress, the world’s biggest wireless trade show, where he was getting a lifetime award this week in Barcelona.

An elderly man poses with a smarphone
Marty Cooper says he’s “not crazy” about the shape of modern smartphones.(AP Photo: Joan Mateu Parra)

Besides worrying about the erosion of privacy, Mr Cooper also acknowledged the negative side effects that come with smartphones and social media, such as internet addiction and making it easy for children to access harmful content.

But Mr Cooper, describing himself as a dreamer and an optimist, said he’s hopeful that advances in cell phone technology have the potential to revolutionise areas like education and health care.

“Between the cell phone and medical technology and the Internet, we are going to conquer disease,” he said.

A long way from where he started

Mr Cooper made the first public call from a handheld portable telephone on a Manhattan street on April 3, 1973, using a prototype device that his team at Motorola had started designing only five months earlier.

He used the Dyna-TAC phone to famously call his rival at Bell Labs, owned by AT&T. It was, literally, the world’s first brick phone, weighing 1.1 kilograms and measuring 27 centimetres. he then spent the best part of the next decade working to bring a commercial version of the device to market.