Were the First Cell Phones a Joke?

Updated October 6, 2023

Here at Bob Knows Phones cell phone repair we hear a lot of trash talk. Okay, most of it is about these great bowling shoes I picked up at the vintage store. But we also hear a lot of rivalry – people who love their iPhones and hate Droid, or love Droid and hate iPhone. But it’s funny, all the rivalry is about pretty minor stuff. Like which OS is easier to use or which phone has better apps available. No matter which brand of phone you buy these days you can be pretty sure it will at least work.

But that wasn’t always the case. The first cell phones were, well, pieces of junk. Did you know the first cell phone came out in 1973? It’s true. You might be thinking, wait, I don’t remember seeing cell phones till the 90s, what gives? Well, you’re right. They didn’t catch on till then and there’s a reason for that.

The first cell phone call was made on a Motorola prototype in ’73, calling the AT&T office to taunt them (we like your style, Motorola). But that history making phone was the size of a shoe box. It was supposed to be a symbol of the future of communication, but tech columnists at the time made fun of it.

First Cell Phone

They made fun of the first cell phone.

Why? Well the size wasn’t the only issue, though it was pretty clunky. The battery life was also crazy short, the reception was spotty at best, and people weren’t sure how much an un-wired phone would even be needed. But the big thing was the cost.

A three-pound Motorola (and matching handlebar mustache) could be yours for just $100 per month. If you smartphone owners are scratching your head and wondering why that was a big deal, remember this was the 70s. You could buy an entire car for $100 back then.

Or these great bowling shoes.


But even beyond the high cost, people just didn’t envision how useful a cell phone could be. They were used to having the phone anchored in their house or office, and why would you want it ringing away in your car? Explaining its awesomeness was like trying to convince your mom Facebook isn’t cool anymore (please mom… stop poking me). Or convincing your 8 year old that music sounds better on vinyl. They just don’t get it.

So most people in the 70s and 80s thought only high powered execs would use cell phones. It took 20 years for them to start to catch on. Of course, now cell phones are small and work great – as long as you don’t spill your coffee on them.

But hey, that’s why we’re here.

Author Bio:- Sarah S. of Bob Knows Phones gives great advice, education and the latest in current trends on all Cell Phones, iPads and Apps.


  • Shannon Henrici

    I can remember when you had to have your cell phone mounted in your car. I thought it was so cool that you could talk on the phone while in your car. Funny how now you can talk anywhere (even the bathroom). It is amazing. Just imagine being able to make calls from your watch, like inspector Gadget!!!

    • Bilal Ahmad

      Shannon@ I can’t imagine, what more can come after this.

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