The first mobile phone call was made 43 years ago today. A Motorola employee named Martin Cooper stood in midtown Manhattan, near a temporary base station, and phoned Motorola’s rival Bell Labs headquarters in New Jersey.
The moment was not recorded, but the event took place at a press conference, so Cooper is reported by many sources to have said to his competitor, “This is Marty. I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone.” He was using an early version of the company’s DynaTAC mobile phone, which became commercially available and ubiquitous in the mid 1980s. The battery inside the two-and-a-half pound “brick” (seen above, on the cover of Popular Science from July that year) gave users 20 minutes of talk time and then needed to be charged for 10 hours.
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Jesse James was shot dead by a member of his own gang, Robert Ford, who hoped to collect the reward on James’ head, on this date in 1882. Ford was arrested, charged with murder, pleaded guilty, and was pardoned, all in one single day, but was not paid the reward for killing James.
Bruno Richard Hauptmann was executed for the kidnapping and murder of the child of Charles Lindbergh 90 years ago today.
Graham Greene died 25 years ago today.
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Washington Irving (1783–1859) was born on this date in 1783. He was America’s first celebrity author, a writer who is read less and less nowadays but whose characters remain firmly in the American cultural memory. He created Rip Van Winkle and Ichabod Crane, for example. And Santa Claus. He was the first to use the word “Gotham” as a nickname for his beloved New York City—it means “Goat Town,” and he did not come up with it as a compliment for his beloved New York City. But that is one of Irving’s great legacies: He often makes the characters and phrases he uses in his stories sound like he is merely copying down old traditions and re-introducing them to the population, when he is creating them himself.—from The Gad About Town, “C.S.I. North Pole”
John Burroughs was born on this date in 1837. Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle was born 10 years ago today. Marlon Brando was born 92 years ago today. Lyle Alzado would be 67.
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Doris Day is 92 today. Helmut Kohl is 86 today. Wally Moon turns 85 today. Dame Jane Goodall is 82. Marsha Mason is 74. Wayne Newton is 74. Tony Orlando is 72. Richard Thompson is 67 today. “Wall of Death,” live:
Alec Baldwin is 58. “Always Be Cobbling”:
David Hyde Pierce is 57. Eddie Murphy is 55.
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