Clear as a Bell: Video of the First Cell Phone Call

Posted by Yasha Wallin

Do you remember a time when people existed without cell phones? When you'd actually leave a message on a home answering machine? Me neither, but back in 1983 the idea of the kind of connected world we live in now, with one hand constantly on our mobiles seemed improbable. That was the year that Bob Barnett, who served as president of the regional telecom Ameritech, made the first commercial cell phone call, to none other than Alexander Graham Bell's grandson. Sitting in a car in the parking lot of Soldier Field in Chicago, Barnett called Germany as the world watched—turns out the connection was crystal clear.

At that time, AT&T had passed up the technology because it didn't think it could get enough subscribers. Barnett and his team thought otherwise, “We’re trying to envision, will people walk down the street and talk to themselves on a phone?…We started practicing and we said, 'Yeah, we think it would'" So, now that we're all officially addicted to our cell phones, let's stock them with important numbers so we know who to reach out to for reasons other than just walking down the street to talk.

This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Learn and share your neighbors' contact information. Follow along and join the conversation at good.is/citizenship and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.