Martin Cooper

Martin “Marty” Cooper is often described as the “Father of the Cell Phone.” Cooper along with his team worked on creating the first cell phone or wireless phone as it was known at Motorola. The very first call Cooper made in April 1973 from the streets of Manhattan was to his counterpart Joel Engel at Bell Labs and told him that he was making a call from a real, portable phone.

Cooper demonstrated their first “shoe phone” in New York in April 1973 and dazzled the world. John Mitchell of Motorola was his mentor, who told him about the importance of portability. “Mitchell had taught me if you want to catch people’s attention you want to dazzle them.” And that is what Cooper and his team did and they got coverage from The New York Times and The Washington Post. These were the two publications that Cooper and his team were interested in getting coverage and they succeeded.

It took 10 years to release the commercial version of the cell phone, and today the cell phone has revolutionized our world. Is Cooper surprised by it? He is not. People want to be able to move around and for hundred years people had been tied to the copper wire he points out. Liberating people from the copper wire was his goal and they achieved their goal.

In our almost hour-long interview we spoke with Cooper on a wide range of subjects starting with the first demo of the cell phone in New York and the first call he made to his counterpart in Bell Labs, who were also working on a prototype of the phone. How did Marty work with his team to create the first cell phone in a period when there were no personal computers? What did he have to do behind the scenes to help accelerate the process to create this prototype?


We also spoke to him about his Ukrainian roots, his grandfather’s decision to migrate his family from Ukraine to Canada nearly 100 years ago  his childhood in Chicago, teachers that influenced him, his curiosity and his penchant for dreaming. He says that as long as he can remember he always wanted to be an engineer. He has not lost that intense curiosity to find out how things work. We talk to him about privacy and how the mobile phone has revolutionized so many cultures and countries around the world.

Tune in to find out what Cooper has to say about failure and reaching out to help if you want to succeed.

This interview was recorded in 2013 in San Jose during the Cinequest Film Festival, where he won a Maverick Award.