The Car Phone: Mobile, Just Like Your Car Is

1946. The War is over and life is starting to return to some semblance of normality. Two-way radios have been in widespread use but the telephone was starting to become the dominant form of communication. The Swedish police force are looking for a way to get the benefit of two-way radio and take advantage of the increasing popularity of the telephone.

The carphone they developed worked by connecting to a radio tower that was linked to the cabled phone network. The Swedish system did work but had one significant flaw. After six calls, the police car's battery would be flat. That's OK on a quiet day but it wasn't going to be all that helpful once the criminals worked out the seventh crime of the day was going to be easy to get away with.

It's worth remembering that the honour of the first car phone goes to Lars Magnus Ericsson - the founder of Ericsson. In 1910 he installed a telephone in his car. Rather than relying on radio communications he used a pair of long electric wires to connect to the phone network wherever he could find some easily accessible wires to hook into.

In 1947, Bell Labs in the USA came up with a new system. Unlike the Swedish system where the tower connected to the phone system and the phone had bidirectional comms with the tower, they conceived a tower that could manage communications in three directions. However, it took another 20 years before technology for handsets caught up with the antennae.

Maintaining the global nature of the development process it was a Russian, Leonid Kupriyanovich, who developed what was then known as a radiophone in 1957. This 3kg luggable used a rotary dial and could operate up to about 30km from a transmission tower. The battery lasted up to 30 hours - much like an iPhone today! The second version of the radiophone weighed in at a svelte 500g.

Like many inventions, the public got an early look at the future when Humphrey Bogart made a call from the back of a car in the movie Sabrina. It wasn't long till we saw Maxwell Smart and his famous shoephone starting a long line of futuristic phone systems.

Eventually, all these building blocks came together and by 1970 the basics were in place with towers, handsets and a way for calls to hand off between towers mid-call ready to be unleashed onto the public.

Photo Credit: Ericsson

MobileModo is Gizmodo Australia's look at the rise and rise of the mobile phone, from Bell's landline to the ubiquitous mobiles of today.

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