Anniversaries and HappeningsMonday, September 01, 2008
On July 5, 2005, Qualcomm held a party marking its 20th year in business. In a short 20 years, it had grown from a consulting firm with 7 people to a huge company that literally changed the wireless world. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the birth of cellular commercial networks in the United States.The Wireless History Foundation has planned a cocktail reception and dinner to commemorate the first commercial cellular system in the United States, which was turned on by Ameritech in Chicago 25 years ago.
A lot of work preceded that historic event in 1983, starting as far back as 1947 when the concept of cellular was first broached by AT&T. Finally in 1968, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to take a look at the concept and the technology. It took from 1968 until 1983 to commercialize cellular wireless in the United States and it took until 1987 for the market to attract its first million customers. This system and subsequent systems were launched using large, bulky 3-Watt phones mounted in automobiles. Then at Motorola, Dr. Martin Cooper and his team built the first handheld cell phone in 1973. It was big and bulky with a short battery life when compared to the phones of today, but it was a major accomplishment that helped push the industry forward.
The gala reception and dinner is being held in Chicago on Monday, October 13, at the Drake hotel in conjunction with a CTIA event. Many of the founders of the Wireless History Foundation are pioneers who have been involved in the industry since the beginning and are well known in their own right, including Arlene Harris, founder, chairman of the board and chief strategy officer, GreatCall (Jitterbug), Liz Maxfield,Attorney, former CTIA VP and ex-FCC Attorney and Founder of CIBERNET, and Judith (Lockwood) Purcell, managing director, Coracle Group, LLC, Founding Editor of RCR Wireless News, and Wireless Week, who are putting together this event and what is to follow.
The list of supporters reads like a who's who of the industry-Martin Cooper and Arlene Harris, Mal Gurian, Craig McCaw, Morgan O'Brien, John Stanton, and Dennis Strigl are among the many notables. Sponsorships are still available, and additional supporters are welcome to join in.
This will be a wonderful event. I know many of the people who will be there, but unfortunately, I will not be one of them. I will be holding my Andrew Seybold Wireless University at the Mobility World Congress in Bangkok, but I will be at the dinner in sprit and one or two of my business partners will be there.
I am not sure if my co-author will be attending, but Mel Samples and I wrote a book published by Howard Sams in December 1985 called Cellular Mobile Telephone Guide. In reviewing a copy of it for this blog, I had to laugh at how primitive our phone offerings were and how bad the coverage was. But I have also seen how quickly the industry has become such a vital part of almost every person's life in the United States and around the world. The phones we carry today and their capabilities boggle the mind when you look back only a little way into their history.
I have also been reading my newsletters. Some of you might know that from 1981 until 2003, with only a few breaks, I published monthly newsletters (really more like magazines without the ads since they ran 28-36 pages every month). I wrote about the happenings in the cellular world and also in the worlds of two-way radios, mobile computers, paging and the earliest attempts at providing license-free Wi-Fi-like service in the 900-MHz band. At some point, I hope to have them digitized and made available because they document a lot of what is now history and many of my predictions and comments-some of which are pretty funny looking back on them.
There are many of us still around who lived this entire era, though most people in wireless today came into the industry later, after technology advances, after many changes and after wireless had become less magic and more of a must-have for most of us. The Wireless History Foundation is not simply about putting on a dinner, it is also about capturing this history and making it available to those who have joined us along the way who may not be aware of the false starts, slow acceptance and tough decisions made along the way.
Some who are driving wireless forward today have done so since the beginning, but many are "new blood" and may not be aware of the past and what can be learned from it. I often meet new, young companies or talk to executives at one of the larger companies who are telling me about something new that, in reality, was new in the 1980s or early 1990s and did not make it in the marketplace. Some of these ideas can be and are being dusted off and put forward again now that times are different. Network coverage is far better than it was in those days, devices cost less, service costs far less and we have two things we really didn't have back then: wireless broadband and the Internet.
Preserving the history of the wireless industry will not only honor those who came before us or grew up with the industry, it will also, perhaps, trigger an idea in someone's head or strike a chord with someone new who might think: The time for this has finally come and I can make it happen. At least this is my hope.
In the meantime, happy 25th anniversary to our industry and to all of the great people who have contributed to it for the past 25 years. We want to honor those who are no longer with us and well as those who are because without these people we would not be reaping the rewards of wireless and we would not be looking forward to the next 25 years and even more significant changes than we have seen in the first 25.
JUST A FRIENDLY REMINDER THAT IT'S TIME FOR THE FALL 2008 SESSION OF Your Wireless World Starts Here on September 9, 2008
JUST A FRIENDLY REMINDER THAT IT'S TIME FOR THE FALL 2008 SESSION OF
Your Wireless World Starts Here on September 9, 2008