Martin Cooper: “The mobile is an extension of the person. And it’s just the beginning.”

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Martin Cooper: "The mobile is an extension of the person. And it's just the beginning."

The American engineer Martin Cooper, who invented the mobile phone, believes that this device “has become an extension of the person” and that we are “only at the beginning” of the changes that await us, and imagines a future with mobiles adapted to each person and even integrated into the body.

Cooper (Chicago, 1928), who this week has been recognized for his career at MWC, the largest mobile technology event in the world, will also go down in history for having made the first mobile phone call, which occurred on April 3, 1973.

Almost 50 years after that historic moment, Cooper recalls in an interview with EFE who was the recipient of that call made with a Motorola (NYSE:.MSI) DynaTac 8000X, a ‘Zapatófono’ of almost a kilo of weight that took 10 hours to load and barely had 30 minutes of autonomy.

Cooper dialed the number of his counterpart in the competition: Joel Engel, who at the time led the research department of Bell Laboratories. He chose to call the rival company, he says, because at the time Bell treated Motorola with some contempt, as if they didn’t know what they were doing. “Joel, I call you from a mobile phone. From a real one,” he told her. And then there was “silence” on the other end of the line, he recalls.

“We didn’t imagine there would be digital cameras or the Internet, but we did know that someday everyone would have a cell phone,” says Cooper.

At 94, Cooper, Prince of Asturias Award in 2009, has become a celebrity in this edition of the MWC. Not surprisingly, he was the inventor of the mobile walking through the congress of mobile phones and everyone recognized those gallons.

If already in 1973 he proved to be a futurist, Cooper continues with that same mentality and predicts that there is still a long way to go.

From the outset, it marks distances with current mobiles: “I don’t like smartphones very much. I don’t think they’re very smart,” he says.

Consider that today’s mobiles try to provide too many functions to the whole population, without personalizing, and that the ideal would be that they knew what you want to do and did it automatically, without you having to look for an application.

Regarding the future that awaits us with mobile phones, he predicts: “We are only very early” and predicts that they will help us solve great current problems.


From the outset, he believes that they will increase efficiency and productivity and thus contribute to “eliminating poverty”.

Secondly, they will contribute to education, as they will make information available to everyone. “Teachers will have to teach how to discriminate useful information from misinformation,” he says.

And finally he considers that they will play a “crucial” role in health matters. “In the future, because the mobile is an extension of the person, it will be monitoring you all the time. And when you start to get sick, before you are, your mobile will transmit that information to a computer and you will be warned to go see a doctor or to be cured, and the disease will not occur, “he says.

All in all, Cooper admits that mobile phones also have negative aspects. “The (lack) of privacy is the main risk” of current technology, to which we must add the addiction “to screens,” he says, although he believes that the positive aspects clearly outweigh the negatives.


In the new technological revolution that is coming, Cooper imagines a personalized mobile for each person, adapted to the needs of those who use it and capable of “anticipating what you want” thanks to artificial intelligence.

Speaking about the future, Cooper, whose mobile phone is connected to his hearing aid wirelessly, says the device of the future should be tailored to the function it performs and the specific needs of each person.

“For me, ideally the phone should be built under your skin, under your ear. With a computer inside. It wouldn’t need a battery because your body would already be a battery. And when you wanted to talk to someone and say ‘put Joe on the phone’ the computer would do it … instead of lifting a piece of plastic and putting it against your head, holding it in an awkward position,” he says.

“But you’ll also have patches or made-up things that will measure things on your body,” he says.

In the same line, he predicts a future with a personalized mobile, adapted to the characteristics of each one, “because the mobile will be looking for diseases that are related to your genetics,” he adds as a continuation of this futuristic story.

And when the reporter asks him if it can’t be dangerous to his health to carry all that on his body, Cooper smiles and argues that he already wears a knee prosthesis or false teeth.

“The fact is, humans have better brains, but we’re flawed. We don’t sniff as well as a dog. (…) So why shouldn’t we incorporate things into our bodies?” she asks.

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