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Could We Have Had Cell Phones In The 60s? 217

TheSync writes: "MIT's Technology Review has a short article claiming "were it not for regulatory red tape, cell phones might have been available...in the 1960s" Despite the basics of cellular technology being developed in 1947, FCC regulation kept cellular on-hold until 1975. While modern cellphones are clearly more advanced (900 MHz) than anything that could have been developed in the 60's, clearly we could have had VHF or UHF band cellular phones." Interesting to speculate what things such regulation may have prevented, as well as what developments they've spurred. (In Sabrina , though, Linus Larrabee has a radio phone in his car, and so did Alfred Hitchcock in the Three Investigators books. But I certainly couldn't have had any kind of radio phone then.)
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Could We Have Had Cell Phones In The 60s?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the USA the radio phones operated at around 150 MHz. They were very similar to a ham radio 2m rig and operated adjacent to that band. To place a call you had to pick up the microphone and talk to the mobile phone operator who would then place your call for you. There was no privacy, really. You had to remind the person on the other end of the line that you were on a mobile phone and not to say anything that you wouldn't want heard in public. Anyone could buy a multi-band radio at Radio Shack to eavesdrop on the mobile phone band.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am using wireless broadband inet access.. check it out at www.sprintbroadband.com Power to the people!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You have it backwards. Brain cancer causes cell phone usage.
  • >There are at least between 4 redundant cellular >systems (AMPS, "PCS", GSM, Nextel)...

    *sigh* This is what's wrong with marketing. People don't understand what the hell people mean when companies say things. I *work* at a cell phone company and I had the hardest time just getting a straight answer on what PCS meant, from people who should really know these things.

    AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone System) is the "original" cell system developed by Motorola and Bell Labs. That's why Motorola was so big in analog systems. They helped develop them.

    Other people have pointed this out but I'll do it here anyhow:
    PCS is basically any 2G system run at 1900 Mhz. Could be TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access), could be CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). It involves some of the functionality of GSM but it's not the same thing as GSM in Europe and Japan.

    GSM is, of course, the standard across much of the world. Too bad for us in the U.S. that providers are so invested in the current infrastructure that we're (yet again!) different. From what I understand there are a few small GSM sites up in urban areas in the US but like I said, providers are invested in other technologies already.

    Nextel is NOT a cell phone system. They are a provider of Motorola's iDEN systems. iDEN (Integrated Dispatch Enhanced Network) is a TDMA system that runs on 800 or 900 Mhz. It is based closely off the GSM system with some added things like the dispatch function which is what makes it unique.

    Now as far as 3G is concerned, most companies (Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia) are developing both UMTS (a wideband CDMA technology based off the GSM infrastructure which runs TDMA) and 3G CMDA-1x Ev-Dv which is based on (duh) 2G CDMA technology. Everyone but the US will likely go with UMTS (except some portions of Japan), and what American providers will end up with has yet to be determined. My guess is it depends on how much more money they've got to invest to migrate to the GSM based UMTS.

    My basic point (apart from "Don't just listen to buzzwords") is that the US is usually different technology-wise than the rest of the world because everyone else has the sense to recognize that they've got to coexist.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:22PM (#262928)
    And I suppose that all phones would be owned by Bell and merely leased to us?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:33PM (#262929)
    Given that the best process they had in the 60s was around 1000 microns, something tells me such a cellphone would require carrying a backpack à la GhostBusters.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:10PM (#262930)
    The U.S. were the only country regulated by FCC. If it had been possible to develop cell phones in the 60ies, it would have happened in Europe, or even in Japan.
  • by abischof ( 255 ) <alex@NOSPAm.spamcop.net> on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:16PM (#262931) Homepage
    Speaking of regulations and cell phones, has anyone heard news on GSM progress in America? It seems that the rest of the world is quite a bit ahead of us in that regard. As I understand it, the FCC already allocated the frequencies that GSM would've used (?), and if that is indeed the case then I dunno how it could be resolved :(.

    Alex Bischoff
  • Partly due to installed base issues, partly becuase the voice quality of digital cell phones is so inferior to analog that it is hard to get poeple to give up their analog phones. O ce yo hav lis n d to a dig l phon you w ll w nt our an o ph e ba k.

  • "Compared to the Ericssons or the Nokias, they are a) big, b) ugly, and c) unreliable."

    Agreed, but I was talking about the 1989 - 1991 time period, when Motorola did dominate the market worldwide. I am pretty confident that what I said about the GSM standard is correct.

    That in mind, I also had a lot of friends who worked for Motorola Cellular 1992 - 1998, and they tell me that Motorola essentially shot its own foot off by ignoring its international customers and not taking GSM seriously. They also had a lot of the technology in-house for very small phones, designer phones, etc. in 1995, but their marketing group felt that there would be no demand for such devices. At the same time their executives were out of the office most of the time teaching "Six Sigma" to other companies. Oops.

  • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:32PM (#262935)
    Totally different technology though - you had to make a direct radio connection to a central Bell facility, where an operator would route your call to the local exchange. Sort of a throw-back to the 1920's. And IIRC the total capacity of the Chicago system, for example, was about 20 simultaneous calls.

  • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:15PM (#262936)
    "So how is this different than a cellphone? The only thing different now from what you describe above is increased capacity and we replaced operators with computers"

    Radiophone: one big antenna, one central transmission point, high power transmitter, one set of circuits.

    Cellphone = cellular tower technology = many antennas, many transmission points, low power transmitter, handoff of signal from one antenna to the next as the mobile unit moves, many circuits on same frequency across geographical area.

  • Look at another technology that the FCC did approve long ago - UHF television. The technology wasn't ready, no matter what the applicants said. Tuners weren't selective enough, and thus channels had to be spaced 5 apart! The same old modulation as VHF TV was used, there was no improvement in bandwidth.

    The FCC did a bad enough job on Cellular in the 80's and 90's. There are at least between 4 redundant cellular systems (AMPS, "PCS", GSM, Nextel) on different bands, wasting lots of bandwidth, mostly due to the auction scheme.

    FCC needs to abandon the auction method and go back to being a spectrum manager.



  • Some PCS networks (Cingular, VoiceStream, maybe others) use GSM, but in a different frequency band from the rest of the world.
  • by Ben Hutchings ( 4651 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @11:31PM (#262940) Homepage

    This is way over-rated, but since I'm posting not moderating:

    First off,

    the good things that people have mentioned about cell phones (triangulating position from signal strength to save lives) :
    no longer necessary in the future--

    The FCC's e911 regulation means that mobile phones will now give their location using GPS coordinates so that 911 call centers can locate the phone immediately and accurately.

    Cell-phones do not have and are not likely to gain GPS receivers soon. The same techniques are being used for finding the location of cell-phones; the difference is that this can now be done automatically on a routine basis and there are standard means for network operators to pass on this information to parties such as emergency services and location-based information services.


    the article uses the number 900mhz.
    We are WAY beyond 900mhz. 900 is giving way to 1800 for Europe/Middle East. In the states, we have as high as 1900mhz -- and it's gonna get higher.

    GSM networks outside the US use frequencies around either 900 MHz or 1800 MHz. Neither is 'giving way' to the other; they're just two different bands that were available in most countries' radio spectra, and which are sufficiently far apart that a dual-band handset can be made fairly cheaply. The US PCS band is different because that was what was available.

    Europe is largely GSM (which is like TDMA nested in CDMA)

    'TDMA' and 'CDMA' are two different techniques of dividing out bandwidth in an efficient way. Confusingly, the terms are also used more specifically for the common IS-54 and IS-95 systems (I could be wrong about those numbers) which are respectively based on those two techniques. GSM is a different TDMA-based system.

  • It wasn't -

    The last time I saw something on this - the cell phone concept was first tried in the mid-seventies, and I believe it was Motorolla(could be ATT -not clear on that..)

    The systems you are talking about were radio telephones.
  • by Andreas Bombe ( 7266 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:36AM (#262946)
    Cell phones of today (or at least a few years ago) are easily scanned too.

    Only the analog cell phones that are AFAIK only still used in the US.

    I am not sure how it is now with all the digital cell phones and what not... Some at least probably have encryption or just don't transmit anything that a human would understand without another cell phone at the end decoding it.

    These are packetized to share bandwidth on the same frequency and is also using multiple frequencies at the same time, IIRC. With the common scanner you would get a big mess listening on one frequency, additionally the connections are encrypted.

    The encryption is weak however, and man-in-the-middle attacks have been successfully demonstrated. Build your own phone cell which forwards to the real network and off you go, handling and listening on all calls while the respective phones consider your cell to be the strongest in range.

  • by sacherjj ( 7595 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:18PM (#262947) Homepage
    that we didn't have cell phones back then. The crash technology has finally evolved to the point that we now no longer need to worry about hitting each other while talking on cell phones and driving. Think of how bad it would have been in the '60s without airbags!
  • In college in the 60s we were still using
    vacuum tubes. I would guess that your
    cellular telephone would be a little
    hard to carry. You forgot that part
    in your text.

    An other issue would be cost. I don't
    think anyone in the general public would
    have been able to afford it. For one thing
    the persons who would be willing to carry
    those around would have to be morons and
    the numbers would have been relatively
    small thus a very high cost.

    In the early 80s when the electronic started
    to be smaller for those transmitter/receivers
    the cost was still very high.
  • by trb ( 8509 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:08PM (#262949)
    Yes, radiotelephones were around for some time. An article [britannica.com] at britannica.com reviews the history pretty well. This old wireless phone talk reminds me of the forgotten classic movie The Plot Against Harry [suntimes.com] (1969) (not Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry), where Harry was a small time gangster with a phone in his car. Great classic funny movie, check it out.
  • It's because the Australian government makes a lot of money through auctioning off bits of the radio spectrum, so they like to create an artificial scarcity of it to bump up the price.

    However, the assumption that the masses will all start listening to "quality" - whatever that is - if exposed to it is just crap. From all that we've heard, the overwhelming majority of Napster users just want their Britney Spears and Offspring MP3's.

    However, that still doesn't alter the fact that many more frequencies could and should be made available, so that if you want a station that specialises in, say, 60's Motown, or big band music, or whatever's getting played in the edgier local pubs, you can find one.

    Go you big red fire engine!

  • by batobin ( 10158 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:44PM (#262952) Homepage
    "Just like we could have better industry now if it weren't for all these damn environmental regulations. No CO2, no CO, no S, and no radioactive dumps. But think about it, what has the environment ever done for us? It's a haven for wolves, bears, and sharks, all of which kill thousands of humans each year. Not only that, but its elements (tornados, hurricanes) destroy our cities and towns on a constant basis.

    I say fight back against this "mother nature"! It's a mother we never wanted! The FCC regulations went down, and so should all environmental regulations!"

    Direct quote from the speech George W. Bush will make tomorrow in front of congress. Sorry to ruin the surprise. :)
  • Don't forget, Maxwell Smart had his shoe phone.

    And the men from U.N.C.L.E. (Illiazd Kuriakin & Napoléon Solo) their pen phones...


  • Sigh - Aaah, the good old times of mobile car phones... When we got bored listening to railroad radio traffic while hanging near busy junctions, (this was in my roaming FRN days), we'd tune into the mobile phones. Once we heard a slut calling her pimp and telling him how she was about to rob her client while he was in the shower...

    Speaking of suppressed technology, if big-mouth Kennedy hadn't had his stupid race-to-the-moon speech, there would have been an operational space shuttle [awc.net] by the late 60's. After that, space station AND going to the moon would have been a breeze, instead of being a technological dead-end.


  • This old wireless phone talk reminds me of the forgotten classic movie The Plot Against Harry (1969) (not Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry), where Harry was a small time gangster with a phone in his car. Great classic funny movie, check it out.

    When I was a kid, there was this clown on TV named "Sol" [emissions.qc.ca] (ground) who went around with a phone handset in his pocket. He was a precursor of cellular phone-toting people... Now, we have grown up, and so did his act [library.on.ca], 30+ years later... (Can you imagine if Captain Kangaroo's act had grown up with him?)


  • Or you could have a little hand generator as remote radio operatiors did in Vietnam. Picture: buisnessmen in a restaurant imortantly spinning a little wheel as they talk to whomever.

    Just like 100 years ago...


  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:36PM (#262957) Homepage Journal
    Yes, there were indeed mobile phones pre-1983 (my father had one in his car for a number of years until the cell era)

    The system we had here required you to pick up a handset, the unit would scan for an open channel among a very limited number (<30 if memory serves) of channels.

    An operator would answer, you would give your ID number and the number you wished to be connected to.

    If you wanted to place an emergency call one would interrupt an existing call and tell them it was an emergency. You could then get the channel.

    To call a mobile you would call an operator and ask for the mobile ID.

    It worked on lower frequencies and could be easily scanned (or so I hear :))

  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:59PM (#262958) Homepage
    If you are familiar with land mobile (two-way) radios of that era, you will see how silly this idea is. The radio designs were migrating from all-tube designs to mostly solid-state (vacuum tube exciter and finals) using discrete transistors. These were crystal-controlled FM radios in the low (25-50 Mhz) and high (132-174 MHz) VHF bands. They were also physically big and heavy. You mounted the radio in the trunk of your car and attached a control head to the dashboard. The control head had the microphone, speaker, and the volume, squelch, and channel knobs. It was connected to the radio by a long cable. UHF (450-470 MHz) radios appeared next, but they were very similar in design to the VHF radios. It would be many years (1980s) before microprocessor controlled, frequency synthesized radios became practical and common.

    A cellular telephone transceiver needs a frequency synthesizer, modem and a controller, such as a simple microprocessor. These could be built out of discrete components or early integrated circuits, but the result would be expensive, use a lot of space, electrical power and have questionable reliability. Ask anyone who has worked in a two-way radio shop about how their customers abuse the equipment. A car is a hostile environment for electronics.

    I briefly worked as a mobile radiotelephone operator back in the pre-cellular era. Our main customers were funeral directors, real estate agents, car salesmen and pimps (really).

  • And why nearly all of you run around with this ugly analog cell Phones (with this pull-out Antennas *shudder*) while analog cell Phone systems got shut down in Europe years ago, and everyone got gsm

    what decade are you referring to? In 2001, most people in the US use digital phones (or dual).

    Lets please try to keep in mind that building coverage for any country in Europe is about the same as covering one STATE in the US. It has nothing to do with technological superiority, but the fact that:

    1) We have good, always-on, flat-rate land lines

    2) it's a lot harder to build cells to cover our land mass. Any metropolis in the US has as good coverage with modern digital tech as any metropolis in Europe. Its only on the 5 hour drive between one city and another that you'll drop service (of course in 5 hours you could drive across 3+ countries in Europe)

  • You forget that the Romans didn't have the necessary cosmovision. The world to them was highly magic and tradition was far more important than advancements in knowledge.

    The same was true of the ancient Chinese people, who invented lots of things and had far better navigation than Discovery Era Portuguese people, but lacked the motivation to use it effectively.

    Even if the Greeks had a more rational mindset their culture was already decadent because of state-cities fighting each other, too much dependence on slave work and general decline of moral values. So the Romans conquered then and later failed too when they also went decadent, but then much knowledge was already lost.

    As a side note, even if there was a bit of knowledge lost or severely restricted during the Dark (Middle) Age, the political agenda of Renaissance times that partially endures to this day keeps us from realizing that wise men even during the Dark Age knew a lot more than we usually suppose. For example, that the Earth is round was widely know by scholars of the time, it just wasn't accepted by the Tomist (Aristotelic) faction then dominant in the Roman Church that then dominated Western Europe.

    It wasn't until Reformation and Renaissance that the world got the mindset necessary to foster widespread adoption of technological advancements and free communication of scientifical concepts.

    Sad thing is that with copyright and patent laws misuse we might be going backwards in this mindset issue.

    Leandro Guimarães Faria Corsetti Dutra
    DBA, SysAdmin
  • I do that to my friends...show up at their house and phone them from their driveway, telling them I'm on my way over to visit and then five seconds later, while I'm still on the phone, I'll hit the doorbell...freaks 'em right out! >:-)

  • by PenguinX ( 18932 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:49PM (#262965) Homepage
    It's funny really about Ma Bell, the AMPS and NAMPS standards were of course drafted in 1947. Very simple of course, no SS7 - and it does resemble a base-station 900Mhz phone of today when thought about. However it could have been entirely possible that we would have saw Mobile Phones during the era that CSS6 (common channel signaling 6) also known as SS6. To make things more interesting IS-41 was not even started until 1984 (the year that Ma Bell was broke up). IS-41 just was accepted (as in a few months ago) by ANSI and is now an ANSI standard (ANSI-41). I for one am rather happy to see that the Baby Bells are being gentrified as the winners in the internet space (see earlier today) rather than AT&T - usually LECs have much more to do to please the customers then AT&T ever did ... which gets back to why we didn't have cell phones in 1960.

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:19PM (#262966)
    Then we could have "enjoyed" hearing phone conversations in the theatre during the original Star Wars, rather than having to wait for the prequels.

  • if you consider the possibilities, there are differences.

    Sunlight heats from the outside in. That's radiant heat.
    Microwave heats uniformly, so the heating action (albeit very very tiny from a cellphone) is happening inside your head, where temperatures are very tightly regulated.

    The mechanism of action is different as well. Sunlight heats through absorption of infrared.
    Microwaves heat through causing water molecules to vibrate in the EM field they create.

    Oh. Also.. microwave ovens work at 2.4Ghz... would an 800Mhz microwave oven have the same effect? or 5Ghz? I wonder....

  • that a microwave oven with no door has the kind of radiation pattern you think it does? Something tells me you just solved for a perfect omni source..which a microwave oven with no door certainly isn't.

  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @02:21AM (#262969)
    You know.. Something has always bothered me about regulation. Now, being Canadian, I'm talking about the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television Commission), our equivalent of the FCC.

    Years ago, in my hometown, some entrepreneurs applied for an FM license. They had all the funds for equipment, transmitters, staff, etc. They were very serious.. and the CRTC turned them down.. why? Not because there was no spectrum left (we only have 3 FM stations).. but because 'The Market in that town is not large enough to support a 4th FM station'. Now that set off alarm bells.
    I always pictured their role as being one of regulating a public resource (radio spectrum) to ensure it was used fairly and responsibly, not to regulate the MARKET that those airwaves bring about.

    People have to remember, the airwaves are a public resource, and we want them managed properly. It's silly for big business to be able to tie up airwaves with old technology when other newer stuff that could advance society is available.
  • by matth ( 22742 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:22PM (#262970) Homepage
    Having a UHF or VHF phone would have been very interesting indeed. I can't say that I would have used one, but could they have been safer as far as radiation goes? Or would having a small UHF/VHF transmitter next to your head have been worse then todays transmitters?

  • by patrixx ( 30389 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:44AM (#262972)
    Slashdot!? Write "do your homework before trying to educate all of us about the technological inferiority of the US" and the moderation score coes up to 4!? Allthough there are no facts here whatsoever... Here we go:

    1950- The swedish company Ericsson and Telia builds the worlds first mobile phone prototype. It fills up the trunk of a car.
    1955- The worlds first fully automatic mobile/cellular phone system is introduced in
    Stockholm, Sweden. The price for a phone and installation is about 750 dollars.
    1956- The system has 19 users in Stockholm and 8 in Gothenburg.

    I dont know what teacher Petros definition of a cell phone system is. If it must be digital to comply to his definition then there where no cell phones before 1991, when the first digital system was brought on line.

    And the Ericssons and Telias system was NOT just a radio phone. It was fully automatic system.

    Do YOUR homework next time
  • by Ethelred Unraed ( 32954 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:26PM (#262973) Journal
    For that matter, in World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II (or Kaiser Bill ;-) ) had a Mercedes limosine, on display at the Daimler-Benz museum in Stuttgart, that had a mobile radio system -- so that old Bill could keep in touch with the general staff. Whether it was like a cellphone or more like a CB, though, I don't know. But interesting to note how far ahead of its time *that* was. (On that note: How do you pronounce "DaimlerChrysler"? The "chrysler" is silent...) ;-P Cheers, John
  • 1955- The worlds first fully automatic mobile/cellular phone system is introduced in Stockholm, Sweden. The price for a phone and installation is about 750 dollars.

    Note that this equates to probably 10's of thousands of USD in todays terms.
  • by Foxman98 ( 37487 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:23PM (#262977) Homepage
    1. Thousands of accidents related to cell phones. What is it about a cell phone that makes people think they should navigate along the highway with one hand on their phone, while the other desperately tries to steer, shift geers, drink the coffee, changes the radio station.
    2. Many many hours of enjoyment in a cell-phone free movie theatre. Ok ok, so you forgot to turn your cell off in the theatre. What makes you think that in the case it does ring, you should answer it and talk? jeez.

    The list goes on. While I think cell phones have their place in modern society it seems to me that they have become more of a fashion statement than a functional device. Just go to your local mall and take a look at the various cell phone accesory sites.

    I think one of the funnier moments I had related to cell phones was on a trip to france. I got off the plane and was walking down the ramp, while the person next to me, who had immediately turned on their phone as soon as they got off was saying something to the effect of (french isn't too good) "I'm here I just got off the plane.... Oh good you're waiting for me right outside the ramp". Is it really necesary? I dunno. Maybe it's just cuz I hate the phone in general.
  • by legoboy ( 39651 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @05:32PM (#262978)
    ... a CB Radio?

    Strange that thousands of accidents weren't blamed on them every year.

  • If you consider a one Watt phone (it's probably a bit below that on more recent phones, but it's still reasonable), your head receives about 1/2 Watt of energy. This energy probably affects at most a 100 cm^2 area of your head.

    AMPS allowed up to 600 mW for handheld phones. "Bag phones" and phones installed in cars were allowed up to 3W, but I don't think those have been sold in years. The various digital systems use even less power...the GSM PCS phone I used until about a year ago maxed out at 125 mW according to the manual.

  • Well, the much abused term "PCS" is actually supposed to mean 1900Mhz, so this is why you can't get a "PCS" signal at 400Mhz ;-). (I really dislike the term "PCS" and all the confusion it causes... Many people seem to think that a "PCS" phone is something different from a cellular phone, and that it's somehow inherently better/worse, depending on who you ask).

    Seriously, there are reasons why you can't have cellular at any frequency... I don't pretend to understand RF very much, but different freqencies spread in different ways in the environment. Cellular technology depends on geographic channel reuse to achieve high capacity... The more able you are to control how far a signal travels before it becomes irrelevant, the smaller cells you can make, and thus the higher capacity you can achieve. This is why cellular systems use high frequencies, close-to-microwave or microwave. I'm not sure what is a good practical limit, but if you go too low the signals travel too far to make them practical for cellular systems.

    Since you mentioned 400Mhz, there *are* cellular systems at 400Mhz. The first version of NMT was at 400Mhz (later it was also offered at 900Mhz), and I believe there was an early 400Mhz system in use in Alberta, Canada at some point. My understanding is that they are good for rural areas... AFAIK NMT-400 systems are still live, and there is a GSM-400 standard in the works, which will gradually replace NMT-400.

  • by petros ( 47274 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:12PM (#262983) Homepage
    As others mentioned, yes, there were mobile phones since the 1950s or so, but they were not cellular. They were two-way radios, with the base station connected to the phone system. There was only one base station, so both it and the mobile stations has to use high power transmitters to cover an entire city. Only a few channels were allocated, so since there was no channel reuse (which is what cellular technology is all about) the capacity of the system was very small. Also, at first you had to ask an operator to place your calls, although later on direct dial systems appeared as well.
  • by petros ( 47274 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @05:05PM (#262984) Homepage
    "PCS" (personal communication services) was never intended to be anything execept a marketing term which implied "We're better than Cellular. Oh, and you can get paging".

    Technically, PCS refers to the 1900Mhz that the FCC allocated for cellular (for cellular, there is also a PCS paging band allocated, I think). The problem is the way the term was used by marketing, but you can always count on them to do something wrong... People keep comparing PCS with cellular, as if they are two distinct things, and even worse you have companies like Sprint that claim to be "the clear alternative to cellular".

    I like the word cellular. It's not too general, like mobile or radiophone would be, but it's not too specific either: it could be analog or digital, 800, 900 or 1900Mhz, CDMA or GSM etc.

  • by petros ( 47274 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:37AM (#262985) Homepage
    Well, I never suggested that radio telephones are inherently automatic. In fact elsewhere in this article I mentioned that while the first radio phones were manual, later models were automatic.

    I did another quick search, but I can't find any indication that the system you are talking about was cellular. I don't think cellular is an ambiguous term. It means that the coverage area is divided into smaller areas (cells), each served by a relatively low power transmitter. Non-adjacent cells can use the same channels, and calls are handed off from one cell to another as the user moves in the cellular system (which requires that cells have some overlap, obviously).

    So, please, point me to a reference that shows that the 1955 system was cellular, as opposed to automatic radiophone. If this is the case, I'll admit the error of my ways, and will have learned something new in the process. I have done my homework, and I haven't found any evidence that there were any commercial cellular systems anywhere in the 1950s...

  • by petros ( 47274 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @04:15PM (#262986) Homepage
    Scandinavians had mobile in 50s USA has always been slow at mobile comunications. Not because this stuff was not available in USA it means the rest of the world did not have it. first cell phone call was made in 1955. then in the 60s there was a provider for scandinavian countries.

    Sorry to tell you that these were not cellular phones, just mobile radio telephones, and that these were also available in the US. Commercial cellular service started in the (very) early 1980s (don't remember exactly), and Scandinavian countries did beat the US to it by a couple of years. IIRC the first commercial system in the US went live in 1984 in Chicago. I believe that there was a considerable delay between the time AMPS was ready and the time it went live, because it happened at the same time as the AT&T breakup.

    So, next time do your homework before trying to educate all of us about the technological inferiority of the US.

  • by devphil ( 51341 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @08:16PM (#262987) Homepage
    Then add in a large factor to compensate for the fact that your head is liquid cooled

    So I can safely overclock my brain? Sweet. Grad school, here I come!

  • by Wog ( 58146 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @04:52PM (#262988)
    Actually, I'm not sure it'd be dangerous at all. If you'll look at the article and think back a few years, you'll remember that old "Car phones" had a handset connected to a larger base. I assume the size of the case is due to the transmitter/reciever built in. It'd be no worse than, say, a HAM radio. (Note: I know nothing about HAM. :))

    Of course, I don't think today's cell phones are dangerous, but we'll not beat that horse again...
  • by nygeek ( 66352 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @06:57PM (#262989)
    Back in the 1970s I was a practicing electronic engineer and I followed the evolution of the cellphone technology with some interest in the technical press and the journals of the time.

    There was intense competition to be the architect of the cellphone standard, a competition that Motorola won. This was not surprising in light of the fact that Motorola had commercialized most of the key technical capabilities in a range of mobile radio products (police and fire radios in particular) that are still in service today.

    In the bad old days each radio had a transmit and a receive frequency. When each mobile unit was on the same frequencies, they stepped on each other (remember to say over, listen before speaking, and other disciplines that still survive in the CB world). When you gave each mobile unit its own frequencies you consumed lots of bandwidth and there had to be a very big system in the central office.

    Motorola solved this problem by building flexible systems that used a number of frequencies plus a special channel that was only used very briefly in the instant when you pressed the "push to talk" button. During a tiny interval when this button was pushed the mobile set would transmit a request for a channel to the central station and get a response assigning it a frequency to use, to which it would tune its transmitter. All of the mobile receivers were tuned to the same frequency, thus for N mobile sets you only needed N+3 channels (N inbound, 1 request, 1 response, and 1 central broadcast). The ability to build frequency-agile transmitters was all that it took, and Motorola mastered that.

    That, in essence, is the root of first-generation cell phone systems. The only thing required to make it all work was the basic cellular architecture, the handoff system that lets you rebind from one cell to another as you move around, and little more. Microprocessors, which arrived in the early 1970s, made it possible to do all of this affordably.

    I remember following the debates over the technical details of cellular systems in the early and mid 1970s and I remember two specific examples of short-sightedness that stand out in retrospect:

    • market projections circulated in the mid-1970s and accepted everwhere were that the entire worldwide market for cellular telephones if they were to be deployed would be a maximum of one million units, and that only by the year 2000! I remember noting sometime back in the 80s or 90s when we passed one million new units per month in the USA.
    • authentication was proposed for the early phones and rejected as unaffordable because of the small market size. Of course the theft of cellphone identities became quite a sport in the badguy community a few years ago and now we have phone authentication that's a little harder to fake.

    A lot of the commentary in this thread seems to me to be overly paranoid. I may be a Pollyanna, but I remember the electronics of the early 1970s. The estimates that drove decisions were not unreasonable or irrational. In retrospect they didn't include Moore's law (or an appropriate corrollary for analog electonics) and as a result they were way off for capability, cost, and size, but I don't think there was a conspiracy. I don't think the AT&T bureaucracy was smart enough or paranoid enough back then to have been that scheming. They were amazingly arrogant, and that led them to dismiss things they hadn't invented or thought of themselves. They really never learned to factor in the dynamic of change, but it would be giving them far too much credit to accuse them of having enough savvy to deliberately sabotage the cellphone movement.

  • I'm very curious about that magnetic field thing. I've never put too much stock in the magnetic field claims. I really don't believe that a magnetic bracelet is going to cure tennis elbow and I don't really believe that magnetic insoles are going to improve my energy lever and make me more productive. I do however understand that magnetic fields can have an impact on certian animals (carrier pidgeons and gophers come to mind) and would be curious about research on the effects of magnets on the human brain.

    My suspicion would be that cell phones wouldn't be anywhere near the biggest problem with holding magnets near your head. The magnets in the cell phone speaker are quite a bit smaller than those in a good set of head phones and a whole lot smaller than the monster inside the old phone you used to rent from Bell.

  • Pretty much the same long term effects as spending 5 minutes a day in direct sunlight, except safer. What's going to happen? Your head gets warm. Nifty thing about heads, they have a built in liquid cooling system.

    Let's think about this. An actual microwave oven puts out about 1000W of power (700 if you buy a cheap one) nearly all of this power gets absorbed by the food since the sides of the oven are microwave reflective. A cell phone puts out less than one Watt worth of RF power. Unless you put the antenna in your mouth at least half of the energy is radiated away from your head. Think about how long it would take to noticably heat 4 Kg of scrambled eggs in a microwave oven. Now multiply that by at least 2000. Then add in a large factor to compensate for the fact that your head is liquid cooled and it should be apparent that the risk to your health due to heating your head via microwaves from a phone is much smaller than the risk from stepping outside or holding a discharging battery near your head.

  • by phutureboy ( 70690 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:07PM (#262994)
    So using this as a history lesson that we can learn from, and hopefully not repeat. What tech is possible right now that The Powers That Be are preventing us from using, and how can we fix that to give ourselves access to that tech.

    Um, DSL? IP telephony? Video on demand?

    The telecom industry is still very heavily regulated. It's no wonder working DSL is so hard to get. The FCC is trying to force ILECs to cooperate with CLECs, but it is never going to work. I say we do away with regulations that prevent multiple telco/cable comapnies from wiring the last mile, then stand back and let them all compete for customers.

  • by phutureboy ( 70690 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:16PM (#262995)
    Other things that have been prevented:

    - doctors from giving medical advice from arbitrary locations

    - lifesaving rescues of injured hikers.

    - lifesaving rescue of a woman in the midwest who was stranded in a 5 foot, -20F blizzard for two days (saw this on TV, they triangulated her position from her signal strength on the towers :)

    - assistance of motorists with infant children broken down along dangerous highways miles from the nearest payphone

  • There was an episode of Hawaii Five O where someone had a portable phone in an attache case. This was back in the 70's I think. The phone company did offer this stuff (and picture phone service too) back then, but cost was high and availabity limited.
  • I should credit Randall Burns [outlander.com] for stimulating my thinking about the relationship between financial panics and centralization of new media assets. If I recall Randy's observations correctly, he saw the buyout of old media assets like the Washington Post subsequent to the 1929 crash as being analogous to the buyout of new media assets that is going on right out subsequent to the 2000 crash, and he predicts as great a shift in power elites from the 2000 crash as occured during the 1920 to 1950 time period.

    I tend to see the current power elites as more determined position to protect their interests from encroachment than were the earlier elites, although I have over-estimated the effectiveness of that determination before, so Randy's prediction may end up proving correct.

    Interesting times...

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:14PM (#263000) Homepage Journal
    As one of the key players in obtaining the first Ka-band allocation from the FCC, I am here to tell you the system of allocations is rigged to hand power over to the politically connected. I won't go into all the stuff we had to do to get a new spectrum licensed, but it wasn't pretty. I'll just stay this: Had it not been for the fact that I volunteered as a get-out-the-vote phone coordinator for Rep. George Brown, chairman of the House committee on Space and Science, I wouldn't have been able to contribute much to the opening of that new spectrum.

    It was largely as a result of that experience in trying to advance technological frontiers with the US Federal Government that I came up with a white paper on a net asset tax [ibm.com] to not only offload tax burdens from capital gains, income and sales, but also to open up all undefined assets to private claims without government intervention, except as defender of the legal system under which claims to those rights were made valuable assets.

    The Telecommunications Act of 1934 got government into the business of handing out "the people's airwaves" to the politically connected media giants (a pattern that is continuing to this day with Reston, VA-based AOL/Time-Warner enjoying a government assist against Microsoft), as well as establishing a state-backed monopoly on wire communications. I'm actually of the opinion that the banking panic of 1907, the great stock market crash of 1929 and the New Economy Crash of 2000 were, all, part of a pattern in which new media technologies are created, social controls are being threatened and capital manipulations occur in such a way as to depress prices of newly emerging media companies enabling them to be bought on the cheap. Such social controls need not, of course, be consciously planned since they may be evolutionary emergent controls and evolution is, almost by definition, not a conscious process. Nevertheless, if this theory is correct, then just as cinema came under the control of a few giants after 1907 and broadcast came under the control of those same giants after 1929 (via the TCA of 1934), the NASDAQ crash of 2000 may allow giants to buy up and centralize Web/Internet media assets on the cheap. This sort of nonsense is profoundly destructive to culture, itself the basis of human social organization including technological advances, given the key role media companies play in defining culture.

  • by nlh ( 80031 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:53PM (#263003) Homepage
    I was going to comment on this and ask how long this has been around...

    "Autopatch" as it's called, was something I had a lot of fun with when I first became a ham back in 1991. This was well before cell phones were anything close to mainstream (especially with 8th graders, as they are these days)

    The "cell" site you're talking about is actually a repeater, which is a popular ham way of extending the range of a radio and congregating on a frequency (same concept as an ethernet repeater)

    I remember bringing my 2m handheld to school and showing everyone how I could make phone calls from anywhere by patching through on the local repeater. I remember one kid saying how badly he wanted to become a ham, and my having to explain that there's a bit more to amateur radio than making pseudo phone calls (and half-duplex ones, at that)

    Anyone know when the first repeater -> phone autopatch arrived on the scene?


  • by Mick D. ( 89018 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:28PM (#263004) Homepage Journal
    So using this as a history lesson that we can learn from, and hopefully not repeat. What tech is possible right now that The Powers That Be are preventing us from using, and how can we fix that to give ourselves access to that tech.

    I am thinking regulations on private rocketry, genetic engineering, hydrogen/fuel-cell powered vehicles, and high quality encryption. Though the last one is making headway. Anyone have some other suggestions.
  • by BierGuzzl ( 92635 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:39PM (#263006)
    Star Trek, Batman, Inspector Gadget -- they're all examples of how fiction has led science to new heights.

    The most striking example of this for me was when I was looking at some old movies at the internet moving picture archive and watched "Once Upon a Honeymoon 1956" featuring color telephones as a color accessory in the home. An angel in big white brimmed glasses is sent down to earth. While in transit (he's just kinda falling out of the sky) he reaches into his robe and pulls out a wireless phone, just like our modern day cell phones, only larger to accomodate for the rotary dialer!

    I'm sure we could point to many other examples. It's important that we pay attention to our creative thinkers for such ideas because they not only come up with challenges for scientists to grapple with, but they also help to demonstrate whether or not it would even make sense to invent X or Y.

    It's unfortunate that Regulation is such a necessarily slow process. Otherwise we could be moving ideas from their testbed on the screen to full scale productions in the real world with unprecedented speed.

  • Man this makes it sound like cellphone is the most important invention of the century... How many people get injured in car accidents because of a cellphone (plus how many get beaten after their phone rings in a movie theater!), compared to the 3-4 spectacular rescues they show you on TV?

    Besides, if those spectacular rescues were so common, they wouldn't show them on TV!
  • ...the risk to your health due to heating your head via microwaves from a phone is much smaller...

    I didn't talk about really heating the head. It's more about local effects of energy concentrated in one specific band... One of the things they think could cause cancer is the fact that microwaves kill some cells from the immune system, allowing tumors to form.

    If you consider a one Watt phone (it's probably a bit below that on more recent phones, but it's still reasonable), your head receives about 1/2 Watt of energy. This energy probably affects at most a 100 cm^2 area of your head.

    Now, what if you stand at 1 meter from a microwave oven working with the door removed. The proportion of radiation you'll get is 0,01m^2/(4*pi*1m^2) = 0,0008. So if you stand in front of this microwave oven at 1 meter, you get 700W*0,0008 = 0,5 Watts.

    So when you talk with a cellphone, your head receives the same amount of microwaves you would get standing a 1 meter from an open microwave oven.
  • by jmv ( 93421 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @07:02PM (#263009) Homepage
    Supported or not (remember how much time it took before we knew that tobaco caused cancer - some still don't believe that), I don't understand how you can feel safe having a tiny microwave oven near your head (knowing the radiation energy goes in 1/r^2) for several hours a day.

    It may not cause cancer, but who knows the long-term effects...
  • by paxil ( 99137 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @09:06PM (#263012)

    This is all true if any putative health impact is caused by bulk heating of brain tissue. In other words, you have just effectively argued that if cell phone usage causes damage to brain, the mechanism is not bulk heating. This much seems obvious.

    Biology, however, is often very subtle. It is possible that the RF energy from a cell phone could be interacting with brain in some more localized manner.

    The normal way to answer a question such as: "does cell phone usage increase the risk for brain cancer?" is to run a study to check if people who use cell phones have a higher incedence than those who do not. If they dont, then there is probably no problem. If they do have more cancer, then one has (maybe) found a correlation between cell phone usage and cancer, but one can say nothing about causality ; maybe there are other differences which cause cell phone users to get more cancer than non-users.

    Only after one was fairly certain that a causal relationship existed would one begin to test possible mechanisms. Of course, bulk heating would not be a likely mechanism, for the reasons you have pointed out.

    The point is: Although what you say is true, it does not speak to the issue of whether or not cell phone usage can lead to cancer. It is non sequitor .

    Personaly, I doubt that there is any health risk from cell phone usage, but I can not prove this.

  • by genkael ( 102983 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:16PM (#263013)
    Don't forget, Maxwell Smart had his shoe phone.
  • by Master Bait ( 115103 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:38PM (#263020) Homepage Journal
    My father had a job in the mid sixties and he used a car phone in his company car. As I recall, he had to say his call letters to the operator and then have the operator dial the number he wanted.


  • by blazin ( 119416 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:31PM (#263021) Homepage Journal
    Not to mention all the people today that'd have brain cancer from using a cell phone for the past 30-40 years.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @06:46PM (#263027) Journal

    I agree. We had fax machines before the 80s too. In fact, there were cumbersome faxes in the 19th century. [teamvideo.net]

    The keyword here is "we". If the "we" is companies and individuals with lots of money and/or very special needs, then "we" had mobile telephony a long time ago.

    What you really should have said was "could we have had inexpensive mobile telephony aimed at average consumers in the 1960s". The answer is most likely "no".

    Need XML expertise? crism consulting [maden.org]
  • by enneff ( 135842 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:42PM (#263029) Homepage
    Many would argue that restrictions on genetic engineering are holding back the advancement of mass food production techniques, prevention of hereditary illness, etc.

    At the risk of seeming a conspiracy theorist: I'd say there's a very real possibility that it is not government regulations that are holding back the development (and implementation of) hydrogen powered vehicles, but economic inertia caused by the ever-powerful oil industry.

    Private rocketry - now that's my idea of a good time. I'd say that the main restricting factor in this field is the $$$ it costs to build and run the bloody things.

    High Quality Encryption is not so much held back by government restrictions (I believe the USA has recently lifted a ban on the export of cryptography), but by the fact that many people who show promise in the field are quickly snatched up by government agencies (or large corporations), and their efforts never reach the public. In any case, we have PGP, and that's pretty damn secure. (Although with the recent quantum encryption [slashdot.org] story, maybe not quite so secure)

  • by kd7ahv ( 140057 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:31AM (#263031)
    Sure there were radiophones. They were on the buisness band of the VHF spectrum. But if they had become wide-spread, the spectrum that was in use by other radio services would have been auctioned off much like the portion of 220Mhz used by ham radio operators that was sold out from under them. And now a portion of the 420-460Mhz (70cm) band is on the block for "Little LEO's" low orbit satilittes that companies orbit to sell service time off of. Keep in mind, whenever RF is used, you're probably already using shared bandwidth. There is only so much we have to work with. I'm not against progress, I'm against the govenrment selling of what was allocated for other uses just because they can't budget worth a damn. For more information on the newest radio technologies check out the Frequency Hoping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) 900mhz radio at www.tapr.org Very Interesting!
  • by jon_adair ( 142541 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @06:23PM (#263034) Homepage

    The FCC's e911 regulation means that mobile phones will now give their location using GPS coordinates...

    To pick a bone, this is wrong. Mobile phones won't come with GPS receivers. The cellular system provides a rough location based on your signal strength into the tower face(s). The MAN can locate you (ask Kevin Mitnick), but not using this system.

  • A big one, especially out here in California, is wide-scale implementation of distributed power generation. Generating power on-site isn't a problem, but if you want to hook into the grid and sell your surplus, you have to descend into the morass of regulations that govern power utilities. And the "deregulation" of the power industry was anything but -- it was just a legal reorganization driven by a variety of special interst groups (and because the SIGs ranged from power utilities to environmentalists, the reorganization wasn't even coherent).

    Distributed power generation has tremendous potential advantages, most notable being the reduction in line loss (which can be up to 40%) and better load/demand balancing.

    Wireless telecom is another big one, which has been mentioned. The FCC sold out the American people bigtime on that one.

    The laws governing private rocketry used to be extremely restrictive. They've gotten ALOT better in the last five years, although they're hardly perfect. The bigger government impediment is the government's involvement in the launch industry as a competitor. Not that they are competitive in terms of cost or anything else, but it has a big psychological effect on companies that might otherwise be willing to invest in development in the field.

    As far as genetic engineering goes, I'm just as glad that there is regulatory oversight, even if it is inefficient and cumbersome. Genengineering is one of those genies that can't be put back in the bottle if it gets out, and I know just enough biology and chemistry to know just how little we truly understand about how the genetic code really works. For example, we just now figured out that humans have many, many fewer genes than we thought, which has forced us to totally rethink our theories about how these relatively few genes can encode enough information to build a people. It seems likely that that timing of expression and synergistic effect play a much larger role than we previously thought. Bottom line: this is NOT a well understood, mature science.

    Oh yeah, and let's not forget nuclear power. Although nukes suffer a public image problem that is probably even more of an impediment than the regulatory restrictions. Which is a shame, because it is now possible to build a reactor that can't melt down no matter what. These reactors aren't as efficient as the older, hotter designs, but so what. Of course, there's still this small matter of waste disposal... But now we're back to the discussion of private rocketry :).

  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @04:49PM (#263042) Homepage Journal
    I can't find the article on the MIT site. The link is to the main page, with no obvious links to the article in question.

    Anyway, the premise seems pretty ignorant, and most the posts seem prety ignorant too, if not totally irrelevent. (Offtopic posts that get modded up as "funny" are getting to be a bore.) Here's some actual history:

    It's true that the 40 years ago, the telecom industry was grossly over-regulated. But this had nothing to do with government bureaucrats or congressional do-gooders. The prime force behind all the extreme regulation was the telecom industry itself. Why did they industry like being regulated. Because it consisted almost entirely of a single entity: the "Bell System", which consisted of AT&T and its various subidiaries.

    Most regulations had the main effect of forcing everybody to deal with "Ma Bell". The law made it impossible for anybody but AT&T to offer long distance service. If you needed voice or data service of any kind, you almost had to deal with one of their operating companies. With few exceptions, the only legal way to obtain premises equipment of any kind, including phones, "datasets" (basically, primitive modems), and terminals, was to lease (not buy, lease) it from Ma Bell. Most equipment was hard-wired to the wall, and even if you had a plug, plugging anything not manufactured by Western Electric (owned by guess who) was illegal.

    Ma Bell argued that third-party equipment would screw up the system. They actually claimed a single malfunctioning phone could bring down whole regional networks!

    Naturally this slowed innovation. AT&T never came out with a practical answering machine, and it was illegal to wire in your own. Some early models got around this with weird kludges that picked up the phone when it rang, interfacing to the system through microphone and speaker that slid under the headset.

    Come to think of it, that weird dialing mechanism in The Matrix was probably a real-life gadget, somebody's attempt at building a legal autodial modem. There was a WE modem too (very bulky, and the dialer required its own serial port!), but its annual lease was more than the total cost of an aftermarket product.

    Oh well, enough Ma Bell bashing. They are mercifully gone. Though, judging from news about AT&T and Lucent, not to mention the poor picture quality on my cable tv, their arrogance and ineptitude lives on.

    Some other historical corrections. Mobile phones have been around since the 50s, at least, but Cells only date back about 15 years. Before that, mobiles were simply a kind of mobile radio, with the base station operated by the phone company.

    In theory, the cell system could have been built any time after radios become small and reliable enough. But to be practical, a cell network needs cheap low-maintenance automatic switching technology. In the 60s, not even the land-line system had that! What automatic switching there was, was done by complex electromechanical devices that needed constant human attention. Totally impractical for the thousands of unmanned cell switches that now cover the planet. The changeover to electronic, solid-state technology lasted into the 80s. And only when electronic switches became cheap enough to use everywhere did the last human-operated local exchanges disappear.


  • by vandelais ( 164490 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:34PM (#263044)
    such as in nuclear power, which was not safe when it was explored and implemented.

    Sometimes, economies of scale would not have benefitted us and we may have ended with a monopoly by AT&T or worse. Cell phones are rumored to be dangerous (though unproven), but they may have actually been so with early adoption.

    Think of the chemical industry. DDT helped millions avoid starvation, but in the end proved unsafe because of early adoption. Consider Thalidomide. Thalidomide is now recently a useful drug in treating certain types of cancers but is given a bad stigma because early adoption led to absent safeguards for the general public, providing birth defects to countless children.

    Safety may have been a concern.

  • by MrBogus ( 173033 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:32PM (#263050)
    That was exactly the problem: AT+T didn't like Cellular because that meant potential competition, and therefore didn't push the FCC too hard on the issue.

    Because cellular is so cheap to build-out, they knew eventually it would be cost-competitive with landline telephones. (This has happened already, BTW, except American consumers have some inertia and tend to view a landline as a necessity and the mobile phone as the luxury item that they will pay more for.)

    The FCC comprimise agreement was to allow 2 cell providers in each market. This AT+T approved of, because in a duopoly situation there isn't that much price competition. True enough, prices stayed high until the FCC auctioned off the PCS bands in the mid 90s.

    Ironically, when AT+T was broken up, they didn't really even want the cellular division. So they basically dumped on the baby bells, which then worked it into a huge business. AT+T had to buy their way back into the market (at great expense) by purchasing McCaw Cellular in the mid-90s.
  • by MrBogus ( 173033 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @07:05PM (#263051)
    I have some previous experience working in the finance department of a mid-sized wireless telephone company some years ago. Suffice it to say, the only reason cell phones cost more in 2001 is that consumers are willing to pay -- originally because it was a work necessity (and thus passed off onto an employer), but now primarily because it's viewed as a low-scale luxury good.

    I haven't missed the point at all about a reliable landline telephone system being the true luxury. Many thriving economies have virtually no landline system, or a poor and expensive one. (Thus leading to very high wireless usage, which American travellers misinterpret as the economy being 'advanced'). Yet, my apartment's 1930s copper very happily provides high-speed Internet access, something not quite available through wireless systems yet.
  • by enrico_suave ( 179651 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @06:29PM (#263053) Homepage
    You guys aren't kidding about increased accidents... you try using a ROTARY cell phone and driving!

  • by firewort ( 180062 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @05:34PM (#263054)
    First off,
    the good things that people have mentioned about cell phones (triangulating position from signal strength to save lives) :
    no longer necessary in the future--

    The FCC's e911 regulation means that mobile phones will now give their location using GPS coordinates so that 911 call centers can locate the phone immediately and accurately. (unfortunately, this means that the MAN can locate you when you don't want it, as well.)

    the article uses the number 900mhz.
    We are WAY beyond 900mhz. 900 is giving way to 1800 for Europe/Middle East. In the states, we have as high as 1900mhz -- and it's gonna get higher.

    Europe is largely GSM (which is like TDMA nested in CDMA) and America and Middle East is primarily CDMA and TDMA, with GSM gaining ground. Middle East GSM is that of Europe (900/1800) instead of 1900 (america.)
    Middle east CDMA and TDMA are the same frequencies as America, but the roaming agreements will kill you...better to get another number put in...

    If Claude Shannon could see us now!

    A host is a host from coast to coast, but no one uses a host that's close
  • by CaptainCap ( 194813 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:15PM (#263059)
    AT&T loved the competitive freeze which regulations generated. The regulations of the 60s and 70s kept modem leasing prices insanely high. And if you wanted to own a modem you still had to pay ripoff fees because your modem might corrupt the entire phone system. If AT&T had pressed for the mobile phones they might have gotten them, but then other parties and the FCC itself might have developed the expectation that the FCC should allow modern THINKING about things like the modem ripoffs.
  • by blightbulb ( 196348 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @05:14PM (#263061)
    This whole game of what if can really be a lot of fun: What if, for instance the Roman empire had made use of available steam technology.
    It appears that the emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus (Hadrian 117-138 AD) was approached by some crafty Greeks (the geeks of their day) who suggested using a steam powered machine to erect a very large obelisk in the center of Rome. Hadrian spent a lot of time 'in the field' as it were and was likely unfamiliar with the most up to date technology to be found in that cosmopolitan capital.
    The Greeks at this time had apparently a sophisiticated understanding of steam power using it to open heavy bronze temple doors at Delphi, for instance. This was not new technology, either. During the seige of Syracuse during 213 BC Archimedes utilized devices which may have by the description of their operation (see Gibbon) included steam propulsion or steam powered piston/connecting rod/lever-type devices which could; "lift a (Roman) galley out of the sea and smash it".
    Other devices demonstrating steam propulsion have been described (Livy , Herotodus) and it is apparent that the Greeks were clear in their understanding of the basic principles. The Romans had sophisticated metallurgy (bronze, brass, iron, steel, zinc, gold, silver, lead) and a means for turning massively large, heavy items and boring them. (See Roman columns). Additionally, the Romans had at their disposal a system of administration to muster and manage large numbers of people, were experienced builders, and had an economy to allow the production of surpluses.
    Possibly the Romans were utilizing steam power in a limited manner in 70-80 AD. It is unknown at this time how the work of human muscle power could operate the canopy covering the immense area of the Coluseum. It is possible that steam power pulled the ropes to shade the emperor on a hot day. With these and other (equally oblique) references it is useful to infer that Hadrian had at his disposal useful devices or potential devices and supporting systems to propel his people into the industrial revolution 1,500-some- years before Thomas Newcomen and James Watt.
    By constructing pumps and then railroads, the obvious uses for steam power and then allowing for the unflowing of technological offspring from these two items, the Romans could have been flying jets by 380 AD; and who knows where we would be at this time. Would we all be telepathcally communicating in Latin, for instance, into our implanted (cellular?) comunication devices.
    Would the environmental outcomes of milleniums of 'progress' allow the continued existence of humans?
    Nevertheless, Hadrian declined the offer and steam power disappeared for fifteen centuries.
  • by rxmd ( 205533 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @06:22AM (#263063) Homepage
    The whole issue of the Romans and Greeks employing industrial technology is largely a myth, I'm afraid.

    For example, you quote Gibbon who is not only very early but also very creative in his interpretation of the sources; with ancient literary sources one has to be a little careful with what they depict, because you can also interpret the giant bird that the Arabian Nights speak of as the Rukh as a helicopter if you insist and so on. It is known that Archimedes was a bright little fellow, so to speak, and that he definitely used technology that was not seen before or afterwards in order to defend Syracuse, but it was destroyed during the siege, and Archimedes was killed, so we know nothing of what it actually was. The Greeks and their steam power use are poorly documented. The only relatively certain application of steam power (for which we have a reliable source) was a steam turbine consisting of a metal ball with two exhaust pipes that would rotate when heated; it was built by one Heron of Alexandria, but it appears to have been more of a scholar's toy than of an industrial application. I'd be grateful to have either a modern scientific reference or an ancient source for that story about Hadrian and the Greeks.

    The key to understanding why the Greeks (and Romans) did not employ this type of technology on a large scale is probably their mindset; a steam engine was a philosopher's toy, but it had no practical value and was not regarded as something applicable in the real world; it's a bit like building giant observatories to observe the skies for astrological purposes. The Romans had an economy capable of generating surpluses (not surplus; it has been shown by Polanyi in 1957 that the economy as such has no susplus), but they did not have banking capable of large-scale investments, shared loans or shares, no insurance (except the "sea loans" the Greeks employed) and very little money transfer without actually transfering cash; there was some giro transfer between granaries in Ptolemaic Egypt, but it was too impractical and did not extend beyond a very limited geographic range. Most of these infrastructural requirements for industrialization were instantiated by Arabic or Jewish traders in the sixth to tenth century, and the necessary mindset evolved in Europe after Averroes and Thomas of Aquin, i.e. in thhe twelfth to thirteenth century. The ancient civilizations (in Europe, that is) might have had some technological toys, but they did not have technology in such a way that they did anything useful with it.

  • by trynis ( 208765 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:37PM (#263068)
    I submitted this a couple of days ago, but it was never posted. We actually had mobile phones in the 60's. In 1950 the first fully automatic mobile phonecall was made by an engineer at Ericsson. By 1955 the first commercially mobile phone system were in use in Sweden. The base stations had a coverage of 25-30km, and the phone equipment weighted about 50 kg. It was called MTA, and was later followed by MTB. In 1981 the first analogue cellular network was in use in the scandinavian countries. It was called NMT (Nordisk MobilTelefoni). (I realise that a mobile phone network is not necessarily a cellular network, but this seems relevant anyway.) Look here [aftonbladet.se] for more info (in swedish). /Trynis
  • by GigsVT ( 208848 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:42PM (#263069) Journal
    Right now, we could have high speed wireless Internet.

    The FCC auctioned off large blocks of microwave bandwidth, then Worldcom bought most of them from the auction winners. Most of these frequency allocations are just sitting idle now.

    I've talked to people wanting to start wireless Internet ISPs, and I have to tell them "good luck". It's not that we don't have the technology, it's that the FCC has made it all but impossible for little players to get bandwidth in the microwave ranges for commercial use.

    Note that I am talking about fixed point-to-point use, not the mobile wireless data technology that is being developed.

  • by Kasreyn ( 233624 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @04:03PM (#263082) Homepage
    ...what technologies, that would make our lives better (taken with a grain of salt ;), are currently ready but likewise being held up by red tape? Another 30 years down the road we might be saying, "Man, the personal forceshield belt would have been great in the riots of 2011... pity it was stuck in red tape."

  • by Beowulf_Boy ( 239340 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:19PM (#263087)
    There are these little books in Cracker Barrels called pages of Time that have Adds from you birthyear.
    I was looking at one from the 50's, and it had a guy talking on a phone in his car. Though the phone was a regular sized phone, and it went on a hook on the Dashboard. It was pretty funny looking, and they had to have a big CB type antenna, but it worked.
  • by JAVAC THE GREAT ( 239850 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:40PM (#263089)
    This would not have been practical. I seriously doubt this would have taken off even in the complete absence of regulation.

    Trunk-size receives? Come on. What normal consumer is going to buy that. Think about it: if it were going to take off, but it was only the regulations stopping it from happening, why then did it not take off in Europe, Canada, or Japan? We have seen in recent history that fewer restrictions have made it easier for companies to create new wireless infrastructure in non-US countries, for example, the popularity of wireless messaging in the Netherlands and Japan, and the creation of wireless infrastructure in poorer countries.

  • by ideut ( 240078 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @04:03PM (#263090)
    I agree wholeheartedly with the argument put forth in the article. But I think there are many more "device classes", for want of a better word, which may have come about much sooner if it were not for heavy-handed regulation

    For example, public key encryption was first discovered by GCHQ many years before it was independantly discovered by RSA.

    Also of note is that the class of device which "Patent Information: 1970 Official Gaz. (U.S. Patent Office) 11 Aug. tm 65 Van Brode Milling Co., Inc., Clinton, Mass... Spork for Combination Plastic Spoon, Fork and Knife. "

    If this had not been witheld from the public domain by the government-imposed patent system, sp0rk5 would be in wide use today and the world would be a far better place for it.

  • by eram ( 245251 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @10:10PM (#263093)
    Some information in English can be found at http://www.telemuseum.se/historia/mobtel/mobteleng .html [telemuseum.se].
  • by nn5ks ( 245781 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @10:24PM (#263094)
    In the 70's I had an IMTS mobile phone in my (high school) car. During the 60's my dad had RCC phones in his cars.

    RCC stands for Radio Common Carrier. This service provided the customer, basically, a restricted area from within which he could make and take phone calls. In smaller towns and cities, the coverage was from usually from a single tower site with the repeater pushing 250 watts or more at either 15x.x MHz or 45x.x MHz.

    IIRC, there were 13 channels or so available for the area. These were simplex (one way at a time) channels. You talk they listen and vice-versa.

    MTS-Mobile Telephone Service (not to be confused with Message Telecommunications Service) was a refinement on RCC including duplex conversation.

    IMTS-Improved MTS provided the ability to use trunked radio systems granting longer range and occasionally better quality plus full duplex conversations.

    IMTS's limitations were what really pushed Cellular development. The 'Improved' in IMTS was more a state of mind that a reality.

    Check out Chapter 4: The Cellular Telephone [sri.com]for a pretty good rundown of the regulatory and economic push for cellular.

  • by cmowire ( 254489 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:38PM (#263099) Homepage
    I don't think that really matters that the FCC held back cell phones yere. Do you realize how fcsking HUGE those older cell phones were? If you apply moore's law, you will see that the mobile phone of 20 years earlier would have either been really fscking huge, signifigantly less capable, or both. The earliest research ones were the sort of thing that was perminantly wired into one's van.

    We missed the boat by a few years, tops. Not the 20 years that the article says.

    I mean, part of technological adoption is doing things at the right time. Cell phones came at the right time, with the right form factor and set of features, etc.
  • by SomeoneYouDontKnow ( 267893 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @07:10PM (#263108)
    And how are consumers supposed to know what drugs have and have not been tested? And how are they supposed to know the test results? Should drug companies be required to provide that information? If you answer yes, then you must admit that there are cases when regulation is necessary. If you answer no, then drug companies are under no obligation to provide that information, and consumers will not be able to make the informed choices that you claim they will make. Look at the drug commercials on TV these days. The manufacturers aren't telling you about possible side effects out of the goodness of their hearts. They're doing it because they're required to do so. Ditto for the warning labels on cigarettes. The tobacco companies have known the dangers of their products for decades, and they've fought like hell to keep that fact away from the public. It's the same for any industry. No one is going to do any more than they are legally required to do. It's true of individuals, too. How many people do you know who let their dogs relieve themselves on their neighbors' lawns? That's one of the reasons we have leash laws and requirements for dogs to be kept in enclosed areas. It's the same with any kind of regulation. Without laws and regulations, we would descend into anarchy, and only the strong would prevail. The real question is what we want our society to look like. That's how we decide what kinds of boundaries we set. We can argue all day about what rules are and are not needed (I have a definite libertarian streak, myself), but several thousand years of history have pretty much shown us that some order must be imposed. Maybe we'll one day evolve into a civilization where everyone respects each other, gets along, and treats others fairly out of the kindness of their hearts, but we aren't there yet.
  • by SomeoneYouDontKnow ( 267893 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:02PM (#263109)
    Well, this depends on how broadly you want to look at this. Let's see. If we got rid of the FDA, new drugs would get to market a lot faster, as would genetically-engineered foods. This is a double-edged sword, though. We might get new medicines faster, but we'd also have more dangerous drugs reaching consumers when they shouldn't. And coming from the perspective of a farmer's son, I can tell you that if the EPA wasn't around, we'd have much better pesticides and herbicides. Of course, we'd still probably have DDT and all the proplems it's caused. Getting back to telecom, one could argue that less regulation is better, but a lack of regulation has killed technologies as well. Look at the AM stereo fiasco. The FCC decided not to choose a standard and let the marketplace decide between C-QUAM and the Kahn system. The result was two competing systems that hampered adoption of the technology. Eventually, C-QUAM won out in the marketplace, and Congress finally mandated it as the AM stereo standard, but by then it was too late. If the FCC had just made a decision and picked a system, AM radio might have had a better shot at survival. I'm not saying it would have, but the situation wasn't helped by the Commission's inaction. I don't think we should fall into the trap of thinking that our lives would be better without regulation per se. Without stupid, arbitrary regulation, yes, but regulations in and of themselves aren't all bad. If the telephone network had been allowed to grow based on market forces alone, rural areas wouldn't have received service when they did, and some places still might not have it, or they may only have it at exorbitant prices. And let's not even get into the broadband mess. No one regulates it, so if you get bad service or no service at all, you have no one to help you. I'm not necessarily saying we should impose rules, but there are pros and cons to everything.
  • by brujito ( 301318 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:17PM (#263113)
    Scandinavians had mobile in 50s USA has always been slow at mobile comunications. Not because this stuff was not available in USA it means the rest of the world did not have it. first cell phone call was made in 1955. then in the 60s there was a provider for scandinavian countries.
  • by brujito ( 301318 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @05:20PM (#263114)
    Sorry there were not cell phones. They were called mobile phones. The new phones are also mobile phones. Cell phones were invented by motorola.
  • by agotterba ( 312493 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:47PM (#263116)
    Even if the technology for transmission was availible 40 - 50 years ago, the batteries certianly were not. I have a phone that's about 6 years old, and by todays standards is considered massive, but only lasts 8 hours or so, with less than an hour of conversation.

    I suppose you could have carried a battery box several times more massive than the ones used with cell phones in the late 80's. Picture: buisnessmen importantly wheeling shopping carts through the streets, differeing only from the homeless in the content of their carts.

    Or you could have a little hand generator as remote radio operatiors did in Vietnam. Picture: buisnessmen in a restaurant imortantly spinning a little wheel as they talk to whomever.

    That is probably why car phones were seen in media, as has been mentioned by several other posts, but having a personal phone always with you was not.

  • by wb8wka ( 317538 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @03:24PM (#263120)
    I'm not sure I can agree with that. While that very well have been the impression, that same impression often predates the "next cool thing". I mean, who would have thought in the 70's that a GUI would be the standard today?
  • by Penguin_Boi ( 411369 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:49PM (#263122) Homepage Journal
    Radiophones were around. My dad (a small town doctor) had one in about 1962. As previously mentioned by Beowulf, it looked like a 60's wall type phone mounted on the dash. It had a long-ass whip antenna that you bent over and connected to a hook mounted on the rear door, and a large suitcase sized box of electronics (tubes and stuff maybe?) mounted in the trunk. It cost several hundred 1960s dollars, maybe even as much as a grand, but it didn't have much effect on your month to month phone bill (according to my Mom's recollections, my dad passed away in 1966).

    It was a big deal to my dad that he had the first one in Arkansas, even the governor didn't have one at the time. We also had radio controlled toys, a stereo phonograph in 1959, FM radios before there were local stations to listen to on them, etc.

  • by Conare ( 442798 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @02:40PM (#263127) Journal
    Personal tactical nuclear weapons. Ideal for home defense and we've had the tech since at least 1945!
  • by mdz0 ( 447109 ) on Thursday April 26, 2001 @04:12PM (#263129)
    The "cell phone-like" systems to which many readers keep referring are primitive "radiotelephone" or "mobile phone service" systems. These were basic, analog, channelized two-way radios with a telephone handset, and a central dispatch office with a trunk to the telco - little better than walkie-talkies communicating with a base station.

    More sophisticated systems had multiple "repeater" stations linked by phone lines to allow better coverage. Even this enhancement did not really make these dinosaurs practical for the masses.

    They were sorely limited in all regards, and made very poor use of spectral resources compared to today's state of the art. They were available in most major metro areas, and a number of smaller ones, but could handle such a small number of simultaneous users that they could not practically be deployed on a wide scale.

    Although the theoretical underpinnings for the modern cell phone - at least the original analog variety - were relatively mature in the 1960's, at least two key developments, and a substantial amount of engineering, precluded the appearance of something like AT&T's Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) - which is what we call 1G cell technology - until the late 1970's at the earliest:
    1. The microprocessor (uP) and the programmable read-only memory (PROM) (Intel, 1971)

      The complexity of the control software used even in first-generation cell phones - handling, among other things, control requests from the cell site to change to a different pair of frequencies and "handoff" to another cell site - pretty much precluded pure-hardware implementations this early in the game.
    2. Low cost solid state devices able to operate at 1 GHz (Motorola and a few others, early 1970's)

      High-frequency solid state devices and microstripline circuitry made possible the RF tranmitter and receiver components needed to build reasonably portable cell phones. Although devices working at somewhat lower frequences were available in the 1960's, there simply wasn't enough free spectrum space that low in the RF spectrum for practical deployment of a cell phone system which could support many users.

    These two developments, plus an enormous amount of elbow grease, allowed AT&T to deploy AMPS in Chicago in 1983 (right before the Consent Decree broke them up into the Baby Bells) - the world's first high-capacity cell-based full-duplex communication system, featuring frequency re-use among cells, frequency-agile base stations and portable (customer) units, providing connections between each other and the public switched telephone network (PSTN), and offering a user interface nearly identical to the standard POTS telephone!!

    It WAS black magic...

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