Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I advocate we now live in a Mobile First World.  Consequently I was taken aback when I learned the cell phone turned 40 last Wednesday.  Made me wonder, are things really changing that rapidly as everyone claims or is real change, slow and gradual?

Read On:

It is documented that Marty Cooper called Joel Engel April 3rd, 1973 on his cell phone from Manhattan.  A couple of additional points of trivia:
  • Marty was a Division Manager at Motorola when he invented the cell phone.  Joel Engel was his number one rival at Bell Labs.  “Joe, this is Marty.  I am calling you from a cell phone.”  Touché!
  • The handheld portable cell phone Marty used was the Motorola Dyna TAC 8000x.  It weighed 2.5 pounds.  The average weight of a cell phone today is 4 ounces.
According to the CTIA, the Wireless Association, there are approximately 322 million total U.S. subscriber connections.  Remember, our current population is 313.9 million, so there are people reading this post today that have more than one cell phone. 

Some more key statistics: Nielsen now estimates that 53% of the cell phones are smartphones; the Pew Research Center just reported 62%.  Now think about all the functions your smartphone is now capable of performing, especially since the last smartphone or flip phone you owned.  Did these changes happen over night or the changes have been gradual over time since the “Father of the Cell Phone” Marty Cooper stuck it to his rival Joel Engel forty years ago?

What do you think?  Is real change rapid or slow and gradual!  


  1. On the surface, 40 years seems anything but rapid. But looking at how quickly the adoption of the Smartphone has been ( less than two years) you'd have to visualize that as rapid...

  2. Hi Jim,

    I think when we take into the long view, any change can seem glacial (it's a common trick those against global warming tried to use of extending temperature changes on a scale of thousands of years to try and convince others that temperatures changes today are not that serious . . .).

    The long view is important as it does provide the important element of context. However, in terms of the shorter lens of the last few years, change has certainly been quite rapid. Using mobile technology, look at how carriers now focus their plans on data instead of minutes. Why? because as you pointed out, more people have smartphones and we're seeing a shift - particularly among the younger set (the Millennial squared generation) that prefer texting to communicate than actually talking through their cell phones.

    So things are accelerating, but I think that acceleration has been ramping up over the last few decades; we're only beginning to appreciate that rapid pace now that we're in the vertical line of the S-curve.

  3. Technology changes rapidly. Generally consumer adoption takes longer. Tom is right about the smartphone; however, much of that is the cell companies making smartphones their primary options.

  4. Change is constant, it is neither fast nor slow. I think the speed of change is relative to the need to change; the availability of resources, prior knowledge, curiosity, and willingness to defy convention, or step outside of the existing norms. What was the necessity or lack thereof that took seventy years to move from "Watson come here", to "Joe, this is Marty. I'm calling you from a cell phone"? Change happens because someone is lazy, crazy, hazy, dazey, or phasey. I believe Henry Ford invented the first practical automobile because he was too damned lazy to hitch up his horse to his buggy every day as normal people did, and he hated scooping up their poop. Galileo was crazy when he said the earth revolved around the sun. Einstein was hazey about the theory of relativity. Steve Jobs was in a phase when he helped hook us to the IPodPhonePad. Speed of change is relative to the number of crazy, lazy, hazy, phasey, and dazey people around us.

  5. Technological progress is a gradual process,I think. Because there is much research and planning and testing involved before an innovation reaches the consumer. But the reason Wally came up with makes sense too: speed of change depends on number of crazy, lazy, dazey phasey people: love it :-)