Post by Rich
The basic idea of the cellphone was introduced to the public in 1945 -
not in Popular Mechanics or Science, but in the down-home Saturday
Evening Post. Millions of citizens would soon be using "handie-talkies,"
declared J.K. Jett, the head of the Federal Communications Commission
(FCC). Licenses would have to be issued, but that process "won't be
difficult." The revolutionary technology, Jett promised in the story,
would be formulated within months.
But permission to deploy it would not. The government would not allocate
spectrum to realize the engineers' vision of "cellular radio" until
1982, and licenses authorizing the service would not be fully
distributed for another seven years. That's one heck of a bureaucratic
I glanced at it, I didn't see an explanation of what was meant in 1947.
Remember, people now say Star Trek invented cellphones, because the
communicators look like what cellphones became.
It is right, tv got a massive segment of the radio spectrum after WWII, at
a time when there wasn't much use for the higher frequencies, but just as
technology was evolving (WWII gave a boost to UHF and microwave
technology, due to radar development and such) to make technology work at
higher frequencies. So yes, just about any new radio service added after
WWII had to be carved out of an existing radio service, no new space
available until transistors and ICs made the upper UHF and low microwave
frequencies move viable, sometime in the eighties.
But in 47 or 48, the US FCC allocated frequencies in the 450MHz band for
"citizen band". You needed a license, but no testing, it wasn't a hobby
band. But it was too high in frequency at the time, so either junk
equipment that didn't work very well, or expensive equipment that was out
of range of most people.
Mobile radio even into the sixties with transistors meant a big radio in
the trunk, and a control head on the dashboard. It was expensive and big
and heavy, not viable for the masses. Even if other issues could be
resolved, that would be limiting as to how many could use it.
But cellphones became viable because they had fixed infrastructure. They
were low power radios, relying on infrascture everywhere to make it work.
Tha wouldn't happen until transistors. But also, the notion of "cells",
alllowed for the reuse of frequencies a short distance away. Mobile
phones in 1947 meant some central tower and the transmitter there and in
the car had to be "high power" to make contact, so that frequency couldn't
be reused in that area.
I can't see cellphones happening in 1947, the system counts on a computer
in the mobile unit, and at the "base" end, and computers were too
expensive and big to make it viable then.
So it wasn't about frequency allocation, though that mattered with time.
It was tube technology couldn't make it work, and was too expensive.
CB of course became bigger in 1958 when 27MHz was taken from the hams and
turned into an allocation for the people. But 23 channels (in the
seventies it went up to 40) was never enough, especially since at 27MHz
when the band opened up, lots of interference from afar.
It was only with cellphones, and after they got cheap, that the average
person got access to the radio waves, and most don't think in terms of
radio but telephone. And a cellphone is useless without the
I would point out that Robert Heinlein had passing references to mobile
phones in some of his juvenile books, "Between Planets" maybe being the
most mentioned. But in an earlier story or novel, I forget what but it
was from 1939 or 41, he mentions having to overcome technological issues
before "portable phones" became viable, he's a bit more specific though
not deeply. That's foreshadowing.