March 13, 2014
The First Cellphone Went on Sale 30 Years Ago for $4,000
Somewhere in either Chicago, Baltimore or Washington, someone plunked down $3,995 to buy the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, the first handheld cellphone, on March 13, 1984 — 30 years ago today. Mashable remembers.
We don't know who that first cellphone buyer was. At the time, the occasion didn't register as historically auspicious. After all, in 1984, the terms "cellphone" and "mobile phone" didn't refer to handheld phones; those terms referred to car phones, which had been around since the mid-1940s. What was celebrated at the time was the kick-off consumer cellular call — made to the great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell — six months earlier.
A handheld portable phone was considered a gimmick, a "look what I got!" rich man's toy with dubious utility. Measuring 13 x 1.75 x 3.5 inches and weighing 28 ounces, the 8000X was so big and heavy, even its creators had nicknamed it "The Brick." Plus, you could only use it for a half an hour before the battery gave out. Who would pay a quarter of the average salary in 1984 — more than $9,000 in 2014 dollars — to carry around such a useless load, especially since payphones were everywhere and only cost a dime to use?
The lack of commemoration of that first portable phone sale is understandable. What has turned out to be the most ubiquitous gadget in history started life as a publicity stunt, prompted by panic.
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