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Motorola Fans exclusive interview with Martin Cooper!

I had the honor of interviewing the man who led the team that made the mobile industry possible. Martin Cooper answered all the questions I had for him with a lot of detail. Some of these questions and his answers are a bit controversial, and you will find new bits of information about Motorola with what he had to say.

Interview with Martin Cooper:

You have a rather large following base on social media and there’s a lot of interest in what you say and think about mobile technology. Are you aware of these fans and followers? Did you ever think you would become a public figure?

I’m flattered that ANYONE is interested in my opinions and enjoy defending those opinions with people who can teach me. Ideas are what living is all about. I have over 8,000 Twitter followers but only Tweet when I have something to say. Public figures like Bill Gates and Elon Musk have millions of followers but I’m pleased about my elite group. BTW, I’m @martymobile on Twitter.

It’s been 44 years since that call. Smartphones, Internet of Things, connected lifestyles, while devices get larger screens and more processing power. What’s your view on the current mobile industry? 

The mobile industry is still in its infancy. We’re still learning how to make the simplest phones do valuable things – like helping to lift a billion people out of poverty in the last twenty years. Smartphones have the potential to revolutionize health care, education, and collaboration but the process of releasing that potential has barely started. It’s going to take a generation or two for us to figure it out.

The smartphone makers have pretty much exhausted the useful features that can be squeezed into a single package. The combination of artificial intelligence and wearables will be the basis of REALLY useful functionality that will improve the lives of billions of people.

While the Internet of things will make our society more productive, I am waiting for the “Internet of People” to be finished. Two-thirds of the people on Earth don’t have wireless access to the Internet. There are important companies working on that challenge; the results will be astounding – but it will take a few generations for the revolutions to happen.

When you and your team developed the DynaTAC, did anyone imagine phones would have mobile browsing, digital cameras and large color screens one day?

Of course not! The Internet, digital cameras, personal computers, and flat color displays didn’t exist in 1973. But we knew that the handheld portable phone would not only displace but far exceed the penetration of the wired phone. Few people believed us and companies like (the old) AT&T ridiculed us, but we were right, weren’t we? 

What was it like working at Motorola back then? What was the overall feeling when the company beat AT&T and made that call?

The immediate feeling was relief that the demonstration worked. That first phone was painstakingly hand-assembled out of many hundreds of components. It was a testament to the skill and persistence of the team that did it that it worked at all. But it did work. We didn’t really celebrate until the FCC allowed Motorola to influence the standards that made portable phones possible and allowed competition to prevail in the wireless industry.

Fun fact: according to Motorola, you made that first mobile phone call at 11:35AM, and if you look at most Motorola marketing material and promotional images from the last 15 years, they all show this time set in the phones. Even last year, when it was replaced, I asked Motorola to bring it back and they quickly changed it back. Now all current promotional material shows that historic moment. Were you aware of this hidden/rare shoutout to you and that historical moment? 

I was not aware of that but will add that fun fact to my historical comments. If any member of the fan club knows the source of that fact, or can share other similar fact, I would be eternally grateful.

Most people know you for leading the DynaTAC team, but you actually led and developed other projects during your time at Motorola. Can you tell us about those less known projects?

I led the teams that built the first 900 MHz mobile receiver, the first radio traffic control system equipment, The IMTS mobile phone that was the first nationwide wireless phone, and the Pageboy II radio pager that launched the paging industry. I was lucky to be there at the right time, but mostly to have had the privilege of being associated with a group of amazing engineers and a visionary (and tolerant) management.

What about your current projects and collaboration with Arlene Harris? Any upcoming project we should look forward to?

Arlene is the genius who created the Jitterbug phone and the complex system that made it work. This phone was designed for people who wanted, and needed simplicity to make their handheld phones useful. We started the company GreatCall, Inc., which now has a large following in the U.S. Arlene is creating an entirely new concept but you’ll have to wait to hear about that.

Incidentally, among Arlene Harris’ many accomplishments was the creation and implementation of the concept of prepaid wireless. Most of the billions of people in the world have mobile phones only because prepaid exists. NO one would provide service to customers who didn’t have suitable credit rating but Arlene saw this as a business opportunity, and a public service as well.

Now here's the part most Moto fans had been waiting for...

Do you still follow Motorola news and announcements, or remain loyal to the brand? Any opinion on the “modular” Moto Z smartphone? 

I have used every Motorola phone since the beginning and Arlene and I both have Moto Z Force phones. I also try out the best of other brands so I can stay current on the technology.

Motorola has been through alot lately, including Lenovo' decision to bring back the iconic brand, after announcing in 2016 that it would be phased out. You called it a “sad historical day” last year, but now that strategy is being reversed. What do you think about that whole situation and the brand’s comeback? Is the Motorola name too iconic to be erased from consumers’ minds?

I hope so, but doubt that any company can recover the spirit and competitive drive that existed with the old Motorola. I must add, however, that Motorola Solutions is still the world leader in the mobile two-way radio business, and it was from that business that the cellular industry grew.
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