When he formulated the idea for the DynaTAC, Motorola's prototype for the first cellular phone, John F. Mitchell, who died on June 11 at 81, boasted that his creation would be useful to a "widely diverse group of people--businessmen, journalists, doctors, housewives, virtually anyone." But back in 1973, Mitchell--then chief engineer of the company's mobile- and portable-products division and later the company's president and chief operating officer--probably had no idea that by the time he retired, in 1998, wireless products would account for two-thirds of Motorola's $30 billion in annual sales. It's also a safe bet he never fathomed that nearly 60% of the world's population would use mobile phones just a quarter-century after his brainchild was unveiled in 1983.
But the mobile industry has come a long way since the release of the "brick," as the DynaTAC was dubbed. The phone weighed nearly 3 lb.; Apple's iPhone clocks in at just under 5 oz. It took 10 hours to recharge and retailed for $3,995. Calls to the DynaTAC were carried through telephone lines to a central computer and then transmitted by radio.
Bulky design aside, the brick was a defining achievement for Mitchell, a rough-and-tumble manager whose interest in technology was kindled by the Erector set he had received as a child. The seminal phone wasn't a hit, but it placed Motorola at the forefront of the cell-phone revolution.