I have a cell phone built into my watch. People now take this type of technology for granted, but not so long ago it was firmly in the realm of science fiction. The transition from fantasy to reality was far from the flip of a switch. The amount of time, money, talent and effort required to put a telephone on my wrist spanned far beyond any one product development cycle.
The people who crossed a wristwatch with a cell phone worked hard for several years to make it happen, but technology development really occurs on a timescale of decades. While the last steps of technological development capture headlines, it takes thousands of scientists and engineers working for decades on myriad technologies to get to the point where blockbuster products begin to capture the public’s imagination.
The first mobile phone service, for 80-pound telephones installed in cars, was demonstrated on June 17, 1946 , 75 years ago. The service was only available in major cities and highway corridors and was aimed at companies rather than individuals. The equipment filled much of a car’s trunk, and subscribers made calls by picking up the handset and speaking to a switchboard operator. By 1948, the service had 5,000 customers .