It was 40 years ago today, April 3, 1973. Martin Cooper, then a senior engineer at Motorola, made a cell phone call — the first one ever.
Cooper, now age 85, tells the story of this call in an interview with the BBC, embedded below. The call, in the presence of a journalist, was to his chief competitor, Dr. Joel S. Engel, who was head of Bell Labs: "Joel, this is Marty. I'm calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone."
Yes, the first cell phone call was for the purpose of gloating. Cooper says that Engel tells him he doesn't remember the call.
In the interview Cooper discusses some of the benefits to mankind that came from ubiquitous mobile phones. He also says that Motorola treated him well (even though he got $1 from it for signing away the rights to all his inventions).
He also criticized the mobile carriers for focusing on speed rather than reliability of coverage. "The emphasis of the carriers has been to market speed, and yet the technology exists today, and it's being adopted slowly ... that would give us really solid coverage and increase the capacity of the system."
[Editors note: In retrospect, the first thing to say would be "Watson! Come quickly! I need you!"]