Father of cellphone sees dark side but also hope in new tech

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. credit (someone) with (something) / ˈkrɛd ɪt wɪθ / (phrasal v.) – to say that someone is responsible for something good or a particular achievement

    He was credited with the positive changes in the educational system.

  2. marvel / ˈmɑr vəl / (v.) – to show, feel, or experience a great surprise or admiration toward something

    The CEO marveled at how huge his company has grown.

  3. needle / ˈnid l / (v.) – to annoy and tease someone into doing or starting something

    To needle a match, the amateur boxer challenged the champion on live television.

  4. attune / əˈtun / (v.) – to cause someone to be aware of something, such as a need

    The manager is attuned to the amount of effort needed to make the project successful.

  5. revolution / ˌrɛv əˈlu ʃən / (n.) – a sudden, major, or complete change in people’s habit, routine, life, work, etc.

    People’s lives have never been the same since the digital revolution.


Read the text below.

The man credited with inventing the cellphone 50 years ago had only one concern then about the brick-sized device with a long antenna: Would it work?

These days Martin Cooper frets like everybody else about his invention’s impacts on society — from the loss of privacy to the risk of internet addiction to the rapid spread of harmful content, especially among kids.

“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,” said Cooper, who spoke with The Associated Press at the telecom industry’s biggest trade show in Barcelona, where he was receiving a lifetime award.

Yet the 94-year-old self-described dreamer also marvels at how far cellphone design and capabilities have advanced, and he believes the technology’s best days may still be ahead of it in areas such as education and health care.

Cooper, whose invention was inspired by Dick Tracy’s radio wristwatch, said he also envisions a future in which cellphones are charged by human bodies.

It’s a long way from where he started.

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

To needle the competition, Cooper used the Dyna-TAC prototype — which weighed 2.5 pounds and was 11 inches long — to call to his rival at Bell Labs, owned by AT&T.

“The only thing that I was worried about: ‘Is this thing going to work?’ And it did,” he said.

The call helped kick-start the cellphone revolution, but looking back on that day Cooper acknowledges, “we had no way of knowing this was the historic moment.”

While he dreams about what the future might look like, Cooper is attuned to the industry’s current challenges, particularly around privacy.

As for his own phone use, Cooper says he checks email and does online searches for information to settle dinner table arguments.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Cooper’s greatest concern is the loss of privacy since all our information is now recorded and can be accessed by anyone dedicated to doing so. Do you think this con outweighs all the pros of using a cellphone? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Internet addiction is something that can affect anyone, especially the youth. How do you think this could be combatted (ex. limit everyday usage, limit young people’s access to some sites)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Cellphones were originally brick-sized with a long antenna and mainly had just a call function. What kind of features would you like future cellphones to have (ex. sensor charging, projected holographics)? Discuss.
  • Cooper said he also envisions a future in which cellphones are charged by human bodies. Would you like this innovation to take place? Why or why not? Discuss.