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Bell Telephone: Explaining mobile phone technology, c1946

An evening pause: Hat tip Jim Mallamace, who notes that he watched this video on his modern mobile phone.

What strikes me is how much we take this capability for granted, especially when you watch and see how “compact” the car units were. Yet, in the 1940s when this technology was first being developed the use of telephones themselves was only a few decades old. The very idea of being able to communicate instantly with anyone over long distances was still relatively new. Now it included talking to people at random locations. For the people of that time, this was exciting news harboring a bright future.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • wayne

    Nice selection. (I love this type of stuff.)

    To Mr. Z’s point, let’s back up 19 years….

    “How to use the Dial Phone”
    ATT/ PACBell
    (unfortunately, this is silent. not sure if it was made that way or if the audio was lost)

    > Fresno California market– “Dial Telephone’s will be placed in service Midnight, May 28th.”

  • Mitch S.

    “unfortunately, this is silent. not sure if it was made that way or if the audio was lost)”

    Considering the first “talkie” came out in the fall of 1927, I’d say this was made in the “usual” silent manner.

    BTW this video can be useful for the younger generations. Some years ago I showed my 10 year old kid the dial phone at my dad’s house. She couldn’t figure out how to use it!

  • Andi

    Interesting that this type of communication was half-duplex, like using a walkie-talkie. Must’ve been a bit awkward for those on the landline side of the conversation.

  • Ralph Kramden

    Car telephones! What hooey! What’s next pocket phones! I’ll believe it when I see it on Dumont TV news!

  • Shaun

    I’m ashamed that, as an engineer, I wasn’t aware that mobile car phones were a thing in the late 40’s. Previously didn’t think that came until the 80’s. How wrong I was…. I’m especially impressed with how they were able to integrate raiowaves, base stations, and (at the time) cutting edge telephone trunck lines and telephone hubs. Must have been a monumental procedure, and effort, to perform a mobile call effectively in the style of a walki-talki. Makes me really appreciate the modern mobile technology we have today. I’ll probably laugh at my own comments in 10 years…

  • Shaun

    Typo corrections: Walkie Talkie* and radio waves*. The pitfalls of mobile technology! The irony…

  • wayne

    ‘World’s First Mobile Phone’ (1922)
    British Pathé

  • Jeff Wright

    I remember car-phones from the 7o’s detective show Cannon. And that Lincoln! I remember a guy talking into a Dick Tracy watch-but it required the Orbital Antenna Farm. Satellite Phones are about the size of old moble phones-one used by a dying climber atop Everest to say goodbye to his family. I think he is still up there. One chopper design did make it to the summit-lightly loaded however.

  • Edward

    A car phone was featured in the 1954 movie Sabrina.

  • wayne

    Excellent obscure cultural-reference!

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