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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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The latest news on the crisis in Ukraine, plus a look at the technology aiding in search for Flight 370.

April 3rd, 2013
05:57 PM ET

Man who made first-ever cell phone call: We knew someday everybody would have one

Cell phones are already over the hill. Maybe you've been using one for 15 years, or even 20. But a Motorola engineer named Martin Cooper made the first mobile call 40 years ago.

"We knew even in 1973 that someday everybody would have a cell phone," said Cooper. "We used to tell a joke that someday when you were born you'd be assigned a telephone number, and if you didn't answer the phone, you died."

Cooper made that first-ever call from a DynaTAC prototype. Ten years later, the first commercial phone call was made to Alexander Graham Bell's nephew. In 1996, the first flip phone was introduced - Motorola's Startac. And in 2007 Apple revolutionized the market, with the iPhone.

Along the way there were car phones, once so revolutionary, and now so obsolete, and in many cases, against the law. But it inspired the cellular telephone.

"Now the very nature of what a phone call is has changed," said Cooper. "It used to be when you made a phone call you were calling a place, and now when you call a person's cell phone number, you expect them to answer. It's a really profound change, and that change has happened just in one generation."

The average American caught a glimpse of a heavier version of the cell phone in the eighties, by watching everyone from Gordon Gekko on "Wall Street," to Zack Morris on "Saved by the Bell."

In the 1990's, cell phones took off, shrinking way down in size, and becoming much more user friendly.

These days, new types of cell phones are constantly coming into the market that let users access the internet, play music, even watch movies.

The Blackberry, affectionately nicknamed crackberry for those who had their fingers glued to it tapping out emails, launched in 1999. A little more than a decade later, Blackberry maker Research in Motion hit a rough patch thanks to faster-moving companies like Apple. Applications on its iPhones made the Blackberry seem so out-of-date. Now, Apple is about to introduce the iPhone 6.

As of last year, 6 billion cell phones were in use around the world, and cell phone service is rapidly spreading throughout developing countries. Cooper sees a bright future ahead for the technology.

"The phone of 20 years from now will be much simpler than today's phone. You're gonna have a phone maybe in your earring or behind your ear, or maybe even embedded under your skin," predicted Cooper. "You're going to be able to make phone calls by almost just thinking about what you want to do."


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