Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mobile phones--as conceived in 1945

Found an interesting short article under the title "Your Life Tomorrow" by David O. Woodbury, from the June 23, 1945 issue of the long-defunct Collier's magazine, page 66. Published just before the end of the Second World War, the concept of cell phones, or at least mobile telephones in your car, was discussed as one of the big things to come in post-war America. It would be decades before any such thing was workable enough to become commonplace, but here's how cell phones, if you will, were envisioned in 1945:

Illustration from Collier's, June 23, 1945
   "The mobile telephone will give the driver on the road exactly the same performance that his business or home phone does. Rolling along city streets or speeding down a country highway, you will simply lift the insturment off its hook on your dashboard, hear the familiar, 'Number please,' and get your connection. In town the call will go through almost as fast as the present-day local call. In some cases you may even be able to dial it yourself. In the country you will be making what amounts to a toll call, with the usual waits for connections.
   "The trick will be accomplished by a combination of short-wave radio and standard land-line systems. Behind the dashboard will be located a compact low-power transmitter and receiver unit much like that used in Army jeeps and trucks. It will be fed by your car battery and will be entirely automatic.
   "When you make a call, your voice will be broadcast ten to thirty miles. Somewhere in this area the telephone company will have a radio pickup station, on the air all the time to receive your signal. These stations will be spotted along the highways closely enough to assure good transmission; in cities they will be so located that steel buildings can't cast radio shadows and so cause fading or echoes. In any area where the service is given, you can be sure of being heard. Frequency modulation will be used to cut down static.
  "From the pickup station onward, the system will work as part of the regular telephone network. The operator will signal the exchange you ask for and have your party rung.
   "But the service is to be two-way. You can be called while driving along, just as reliably as you can be reached in your home."
   The article goes on about how this system would be useful for delivery drivers in particular, and "The sets to be used in trucks and cars are highly developed and reliable. They will be furnished either by the telephone companies on rental or you can purchase your own. Servicing will be done by company electricians or perhaps by special garage mechanics if you get your own set."
   "The cost of all of this will not be great. To car owners, having a telephone may be a luxury for a time. But to commercial trucking companies, the cost will be nothing compared to the savings made in operating expenses and time. Drivers who now have to return to headquarters for orders or go ahead entirely on their own will be in touch with the home office wherever they are.
   "In the city, practically every type of commercial vehicle can be operated more effectively with telephone aboard. Ambulances, taxis, armored cars, service trucks, delivery wagons -- all can save time and extra miles and give better service, too. The mobile telephone will be especially valuable to doctors and will protect a community better than stationary telephones in an emergency."
   The article concludes, "One great advantage on the open road will be that if you are in any kind of trouble, you can get through a speedy call for help that may save a life."
   Imagine that!

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