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Could We Have Had Cell Phones In The 60s?

timothy posted more than 13 years ago | from the the-even-more-invisible-hand dept.

Technology 217

TheSync writes: "MIT's Technology Review has a short article claiming "were it not for regulatory red tape, cell phones might have been available...in the 1960s" Despite the basics of cellular technology being developed in 1947, FCC regulation kept cellular on-hold until 1975. While modern cellphones are clearly more advanced (900 MHz) than anything that could have been developed in the 60's, clearly we could have had VHF or UHF band cellular phones." Interesting to speculate what things such regulation may have prevented, as well as what developments they've spurred. (In Sabrina , though, Linus Larrabee has a radio phone in his car, and so did Alfred Hitchcock in the Three Investigators books. But I certainly couldn't have had any kind of radio phone then.)

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Re:What are regulations stopping now? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#262915)

  • Genetically Modified Food
  • Teleportation Devices
  • Flying Cars

There are good reasons for this. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#262916)

The main one being that there did not exist any good monitoring technology back then. Back then, just as now, people cannot be trusted and require constant government monitoring to ensure compliance with the law. They might be talking about terrorism, illegal drugs, hacking, etc which needs to be curtailed. That's why Carnivore and Echelon, DMCA, War on Drugs are all perfectly valid and Constitutional.

Freedom is only valid if the government agrees with it and that it doesn't hurt the profits of large corporations.

I know it might not be popular here on slashdot, but I am *very* pro-DMCA. Hacking needs curtailed at all costs and if it means loss of the first amendment (which, IMO is crap anyways) or a bunch of "hackers" and "linux dorks" getting their asses raped in prison and infected with AIDS then it's worth it.

Yeah... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#262917)

You could have had them. The backpack would have weighed about 50 lbs and given about 10 minutes of airtime before needing to be thrown out and replaced (not recharged).

Of course, back then, the government actually cared about things that influenced public health, and wouldn't have allowed the cancer-causing phones to enter the market. Nowadays we are much smarter, and can see the value of causing cancer in the name of convenience and corporate profits for telecoms.

Re:What are regulations stopping now? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#262918)

What regulations prevent wiring the last mile? Except for the laws of economics, that is.

The old radio phones (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#262924)

In the USA the radio phones operated at around 150 MHz. They were very similar to a ham radio 2m rig and operated adjacent to that band. To place a call you had to pick up the microphone and talk to the mobile phone operator who would then place your call for you. There was no privacy, really. You had to remind the person on the other end of the line that you were on a mobile phone and not to say anything that you wouldn't want heard in public. Anyone could buy a multi-band radio at Radio Shack to eavesdrop on the mobile phone band.

Re:What are regulations stopping now? (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#262925)

I am using wireless broadband inet access.. check it out at www.sprintbroadband.com Power to the people!

Mmmmm. Rotarty dial cell phones. (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#262928)

And I suppose that all phones would be owned by Bell and merely leased to us?

And the size of these things? (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#262929)

Given that the best process they had in the 60s was around 1000 microns, something tells me such a cellphone would require carrying a backpack à la GhostBusters.

FCC not responsible (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#262930)

The U.S. were the only country regulated by FCC. If it had been possible to develop cell phones in the 60ies, it would have happened in Europe, or even in Japan.

GSM progress? (3)

abischof (255) | more than 13 years ago | (#262931)

Speaking of regulations and cell phones, has anyone heard news on GSM progress in America? It seems that the rest of the world is quite a bit ahead of us in that regard. As I understand it, the FCC already allocated the frequencies that GSM would've used (?), and if that is indeed the case then I dunno how it could be resolved :(.

Alex Bischoff
---

Re:SPORK THE CAVEMAN MORE ADVANCED THAN US PHONES! (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 13 years ago | (#262932)

"SPORK REMINDS AMERICANS THAT GSM MAKE CELLULAR TELEPHONY VERY POPULAR AND GSM WRITTEN BY EUROPEAN COMMITTEE AND ENFORCED ACROSS EUROPE!!! REGULATION CAUSE CELL PHONE SUCCESS NOT HINDER IT!!! "

remind spork that gsm standard have two purposes:

* build interoperable phone network as spork describe
* lock MOTOROLA out of european market for several years so nokia, ericsson, etc. have chance to recover from total us domination of world market.

mission successful

sPh

Re:Pages of time (3)

sphealey (2855) | more than 13 years ago | (#262935)

Totally different technology though - you had to make a direct radio connection to a central Bell facility, where an operator would route your call to the local exchange. Sort of a throw-back to the 1920's. And IIRC the total capacity of the Chicago system, for example, was about 20 simultaneous calls.

sPh

Re:Pages of time (4)

sphealey (2855) | more than 13 years ago | (#262936)

"So how is this different than a cellphone? The only thing different now from what you describe above is increased capacity and we replaced operators with computers"

Radiophone: one big antenna, one central transmission point, high power transmitter, one set of circuits.

Cellphone = cellular tower technology = many antennas, many transmission points, low power transmitter, handoff of signal from one antenna to the next as the mobile unit moves, many circuits on same frequency across geographical area.

sPh

My neighbor had a car phone in the 70's (1)

MushMouth (5650) | more than 13 years ago | (#262942)

I remember my neighbor had a phone in his truck. I believe it was UHF powered, he would call an operator, and they would make the call for him. If there was an incoming call there was some sort of hookup to the horn in the truck, an American, full sized 4x4, lots of horn power. Many of the contractors in the area subscribed to this service, and they all parked their trucks in front of the same bar after the hard construction workday. Sometimes there would be dualing horns going.

It is a good thing... (4)

sacherjj (7595) | more than 13 years ago | (#262947)

that we didn't have cell phones back then. The crash technology has finally evolved to the point that we now no longer need to worry about hitting each other while talking on cell phones and driving. Think of how bad it would have been in the '60s without airbags!

Re:Pages of time (3)

trb (8509) | more than 13 years ago | (#262949)

Yes, radiotelephones were around for some time. An article [britannica.com] at britannica.com reviews the history pretty well. This old wireless phone talk reminds me of the forgotten classic movie The Plot Against Harry [suntimes.com] (1969) (not Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry), where Harry was a small time gangster with a phone in his car. Great classic funny movie, check it out.

Re:Radio Restrictions (2)

Goonie (8651) | more than 13 years ago | (#262950)

It's because the Australian government makes a lot of money through auctioning off bits of the radio spectrum, so they like to create an artificial scarcity of it to bump up the price.

However, the assumption that the masses will all start listening to "quality" - whatever that is - if exposed to it is just crap. From all that we've heard, the overwhelming majority of Napster users just want their Britney Spears and Offspring MP3's.

However, that still doesn't alter the fact that many more frequencies could and should be made available, so that if you want a station that specialises in, say, 60's Motown, or big band music, or whatever's getting played in the edgier local pubs, you can find one.

Go you big red fire engine!

Perry Mason (1)

TheSpunkyEnigma (10120) | more than 13 years ago | (#262951)

Didn't the lead investigator on the Perry Mason show have a car phone? The show is black and white and definitely before 1975

More regulations... (3)

batobin (10158) | more than 13 years ago | (#262952)

"Just like we could have better industry now if it weren't for all these damn environmental regulations. No CO2, no CO, no S, and no radioactive dumps. But think about it, what has the environment ever done for us? It's a haven for wolves, bears, and sharks, all of which kill thousands of humans each year. Not only that, but its elements (tornados, hurricanes) destroy our cities and towns on a constant basis.

I say fight back against this "mother nature"! It's a mother we never wanted! The FCC regulations went down, and so should all environmental regulations!"

Direct quote from the speech George W. Bush will make tomorrow in front of congress. Sorry to ruin the surprise. :)

Re:Phones in the 'ol days (2)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 13 years ago | (#262953)

Don't forget, Maxwell Smart had his shoe phone.

And the men from U.N.C.L.E. (Illiazd Kuriakin & Napoléon Solo) their pen phones...


--

Sigh... (2)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 13 years ago | (#262954)

Sigh - Aaah, the good old times of mobile car phones... When we got bored listening to railroad radio traffic while hanging near busy junctions, (this was in my roaming FRN days), we'd tune into the mobile phones. Once we heard a slut calling her pimp and telling him how she was about to rob her client while he was in the shower...

Speaking of suppressed technology, if big-mouth Kennedy hadn't had his stupid race-to-the-moon speech, there would have been an operational space shuttle [awc.net] by the late 60's. After that, space station AND going to the moon would have been a breeze, instead of being a technological dead-end.


--

Re:Pages of time (2)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 13 years ago | (#262955)

This old wireless phone talk reminds me of the forgotten classic movie The Plot Against Harry (1969) (not Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry), where Harry was a small time gangster with a phone in his car. Great classic funny movie, check it out.

When I was a kid, there was this clown on TV named "Sol" [emissions.qc.ca] (ground) who went around with a phone handset in his pocket. He was a precursor of cellular phone-toting people... Now, we have grown up, and so did his act [library.on.ca] , 30+ years later... (Can you imagine if Captain Kangaroo's act had grown up with him?)


--

Re:What about Batteries? (2)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 13 years ago | (#262956)

Or you could have a little hand generator as remote radio operatiors did in Vietnam. Picture: buisnessmen in a restaurant imortantly spinning a little wheel as they talk to whomever.

Just like 100 years ago...


--

Re:Perry Mason (5)

grub (11606) | more than 13 years ago | (#262957)

Yes, there were indeed mobile phones pre-1983 (my father had one in his car for a number of years until the cell era)

The system we had here required you to pick up a handset, the unit would scan for an open channel among a very limited number (<30 if memory serves) of channels.

An operator would answer, you would give your ID number and the number you wished to be connected to.

If you wanted to place an emergency call one would interrupt an existing call and tell them it was an emergency. You could then get the channel.

To call a mobile you would call an operator and ask for the mobile ID.

It worked on lower frequencies and could be easily scanned (or so I hear :))

Hogwash (3)

Detritus (11846) | more than 13 years ago | (#262958)

If you are familiar with land mobile (two-way) radios of that era, you will see how silly this idea is. The radio designs were migrating from all-tube designs to mostly solid-state (vacuum tube exciter and finals) using discrete transistors. These were crystal-controlled FM radios in the low (25-50 Mhz) and high (132-174 MHz) VHF bands. They were also physically big and heavy. You mounted the radio in the trunk of your car and attached a control head to the dashboard. The control head had the microphone, speaker, and the volume, squelch, and channel knobs. It was connected to the radio by a long cable. UHF (450-470 MHz) radios appeared next, but they were very similar in design to the VHF radios. It would be many years (1980s) before microprocessor controlled, frequency synthesized radios became practical and common.

A cellular telephone transceiver needs a frequency synthesizer, modem and a controller, such as a simple microprocessor. These could be built out of discrete components or early integrated circuits, but the result would be expensive, use a lot of space, electrical power and have questionable reliability. Ask anyone who has worked in a two-way radio shop about how their customers abuse the equipment. A car is a hostile environment for electronics.

I briefly worked as a mobile radiotelephone operator back in the pre-cellular era. Our main customers were funeral directors, real estate agents, car salesmen and pimps (really).

Re:Mobile telephony celebrates 50 years (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 13 years ago | (#262959)

Anyone whose watched old television shows or movies knows that the US had mobile telephone systems in place by the 1960s, if not earlier. The question is how soon cellular tech could have been rolled out.
--

Of course we could have (4)

PenguinX (18932) | more than 13 years ago | (#262965)

It's funny really about Ma Bell, the AMPS and NAMPS standards were of course drafted in 1947. Very simple of course, no SS7 - and it does resemble a base-station 900Mhz phone of today when thought about. However it could have been entirely possible that we would have saw Mobile Phones during the era that CSS6 (common channel signaling 6) also known as SS6. To make things more interesting IS-41 was not even started until 1984 (the year that Ma Bell was broke up). IS-41 just was accepted (as in a few months ago) by ANSI and is now an ANSI standard (ANSI-41). I for one am rather happy to see that the Baby Bells are being gentrified as the winners in the internet space (see earlier today) rather than AT&T - usually LECs have much more to do to please the customers then AT&T ever did ... which gets back to why we didn't have cell phones in 1960.

Oh, great. (4)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 13 years ago | (#262966)

Then we could have "enjoyed" hearing phone conversations in the theatre during the original Star Wars, rather than having to wait for the prequels.

--

UHF/VHF (3)

matth (22742) | more than 13 years ago | (#262970)

Having a UHF or VHF phone would have been very interesting indeed. I can't say that I would have used one, but could they have been safer as far as radiation goes? Or would having a small UHF/VHF transmitter next to your head have been worse then todays transmitters?


The Kaiser... (3)

Ethelred Unraed (32954) | more than 13 years ago | (#262973)

For that matter, in World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II (or Kaiser Bill ;-) ) had a Mercedes limosine, on display at the Daimler-Benz museum in Stuttgart, that had a mobile radio system -- so that old Bill could keep in touch with the general staff. Whether it was like a cellphone or more like a CB, though, I don't know. But interesting to note how far ahead of its time *that* was. (On that note: How do you pronounce "DaimlerChrysler"? The "chrysler" is silent...) ;-P Cheers, John

Re:Get Smart (1)

slickwillie (34689) | more than 13 years ago | (#262974)

Of course, Maxwell Smart had a shoe phone.

And the Man From U.N.C.L.E had an ISDN pen phone. "Open channel D".

Re:Things that have been prevented (1)

Foxman98 (37487) | more than 13 years ago | (#262976)

Heh. That didn't even occur to me :-) Indeed, go to your local cell phone accersory "store". :-)

Things that have been prevented (4)

Foxman98 (37487) | more than 13 years ago | (#262977)

1. Thousands of accidents related to cell phones. What is it about a cell phone that makes people think they should navigate along the highway with one hand on their phone, while the other desperately tries to steer, shift geers, drink the coffee, changes the radio station.
2. Many many hours of enjoyment in a cell-phone free movie theatre. Ok ok, so you forgot to turn your cell off in the theatre. What makes you think that in the case it does ring, you should answer it and talk? jeez.

The list goes on. While I think cell phones have their place in modern society it seems to me that they have become more of a fashion statement than a functional device. Just go to your local mall and take a look at the various cell phone accesory sites.

I think one of the funnier moments I had related to cell phones was on a trip to france. I got off the plane and was walking down the ramp, while the person next to me, who had immediately turned on their phone as soon as they got off was saying something to the effect of (french isn't too good) "I'm here I just got off the plane.... Oh good you're waiting for me right outside the ramp". Is it really necesary? I dunno. Maybe it's just cuz I hate the phone in general.

Re:What about Batteries? (1)

petros (47274) | more than 13 years ago | (#262980)

I have a phone that's about 6 years old, and by todays standards is considered massive, but only lasts 8 hours or so, with less than an hour of conversation.

Although battery capacities (relative to weight) have improved a lot since 6 years ago (thanks to NiMH and LiIon batteries), the main reason we have much better standby and talk times today is because analog phones (that were the norm a few years ago) use a lot more power than digital phones, both in standby and when you're on a call.

Re:Measering technological adavavces with frequenc (2)

petros (47274) | more than 13 years ago | (#262982)

Well, the much abused term "PCS" is actually supposed to mean 1900Mhz, so this is why you can't get a "PCS" signal at 400Mhz ;-). (I really dislike the term "PCS" and all the confusion it causes... Many people seem to think that a "PCS" phone is something different from a cellular phone, and that it's somehow inherently better/worse, depending on who you ask).

Seriously, there are reasons why you can't have cellular at any frequency... I don't pretend to understand RF very much, but different freqencies spread in different ways in the environment. Cellular technology depends on geographic channel reuse to achieve high capacity... The more able you are to control how far a signal travels before it becomes irrelevant, the smaller cells you can make, and thus the higher capacity you can achieve. This is why cellular systems use high frequencies, close-to-microwave or microwave. I'm not sure what is a good practical limit, but if you go too low the signals travel too far to make them practical for cellular systems.

Since you mentioned 400Mhz, there *are* cellular systems at 400Mhz. The first version of NMT was at 400Mhz (later it was also offered at 900Mhz), and I believe there was an early 400Mhz system in use in Alberta, Canada at some point. My understanding is that they are good for rural areas... AFAIK NMT-400 systems are still live, and there is a GSM-400 standard in the works, which will gradually replace NMT-400.

Re:I remember seeing (3)

petros (47274) | more than 13 years ago | (#262983)

As others mentioned, yes, there were mobile phones since the 1950s or so, but they were not cellular. They were two-way radios, with the base station connected to the phone system. There was only one base station, so both it and the mobile stations has to use high power transmitters to cover an entire city. Only a few channels were allocated, so since there was no channel reuse (which is what cellular technology is all about) the capacity of the system was very small. Also, at first you had to ask an operator to place your calls, although later on direct dial systems appeared as well.

Re:What are regulations stopping now? (3)

phutureboy (70690) | more than 13 years ago | (#262994)

So using this as a history lesson that we can learn from, and hopefully not repeat. What tech is possible right now that The Powers That Be are preventing us from using, and how can we fix that to give ourselves access to that tech.

Um, DSL? IP telephony? Video on demand?

The telecom industry is still very heavily regulated. It's no wonder working DSL is so hard to get. The FCC is trying to force ILECs to cooperate with CLECs, but it is never going to work. I say we do away with regulations that prevent multiple telco/cable comapnies from wiring the last mile, then stand back and let them all compete for customers.

--

Re:Things that have been prevented (3)

phutureboy (70690) | more than 13 years ago | (#262995)

Other things that have been prevented:

- doctors from giving medical advice from arbitrary locations

- lifesaving rescues of injured hikers.

- lifesaving rescue of a woman in the midwest who was stranded in a 5 foot, -20F blizzard for two days (saw this on TV, they triangulated her position from her signal strength on the towers :)

- assistance of motorists with infant children broken down along dangerous highways miles from the nearest payphone

--

Portable Phones in the 70's (2)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 13 years ago | (#262996)

There was an episode of Hawaii Five O where someone had a portable phone in an attache case. This was back in the 70's I think. The phone company did offer this stuff (and picture phone service too) back then, but cost was high and availabity limited.

TCA of 1934 and Time-Warner (5)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 13 years ago | (#263000)

As one of the key players in obtaining the first Ka-band allocation from the FCC, I am here to tell you the system of allocations is rigged to hand power over to the politically connected. I won't go into all the stuff we had to do to get a new spectrum licensed, but it wasn't pretty. I'll just stay this: Had it not been for the fact that I volunteered as a get-out-the-vote phone coordinator for Rep. George Brown, chairman of the House committee on Space and Science, I wouldn't have been able to contribute much to the opening of that new spectrum.

It was largely as a result of that experience in trying to advance technological frontiers with the US Federal Government that I came up with a white paper on a net asset tax [ibm.com] to not only offload tax burdens from capital gains, income and sales, but also to open up all undefined assets to private claims without government intervention, except as defender of the legal system under which claims to those rights were made valuable assets.

The Telecommunications Act of 1934 got government into the business of handing out "the people's airwaves" to the politically connected media giants (a pattern that is continuing to this day with Reston, VA-based AOL/Time-Warner enjoying a government assist against Microsoft), as well as establishing a state-backed monopoly on wire communications. I'm actually of the opinion that the banking panic of 1907, the great stock market crash of 1929 and the New Economy Crash of 2000 were, all, part of a pattern in which new media technologies are created, social controls are being threatened and capital manipulations occur in such a way as to depress prices of newly emerging media companies enabling them to be bought on the cheap. Such social controls need not, of course, be consciously planned since they may be evolutionary emergent controls and evolution is, almost by definition, not a conscious process. Nevertheless, if this theory is correct, then just as cinema came under the control of a few giants after 1907 and broadcast came under the control of those same giants after 1929 (via the TCA of 1934), the NASDAQ crash of 2000 may allow giants to buy up and centralize Web/Internet media assets on the cheap. This sort of nonsense is profoundly destructive to culture, itself the basis of human social organization including technological advances, given the key role media companies play in defining culture.

Re:Ham Radio Telephone Patch. (4)

nlh (80031) | more than 13 years ago | (#263003)

I was going to comment on this and ask how long this has been around...

"Autopatch" as it's called, was something I had a lot of fun with when I first became a ham back in 1991. This was well before cell phones were anything close to mainstream (especially with 8th graders, as they are these days)

The "cell" site you're talking about is actually a repeater, which is a popular ham way of extending the range of a radio and congregating on a frequency (same concept as an ethernet repeater)

I remember bringing my 2m handheld to school and showing everyone how I could make phone calls from anywhere by patching through on the local repeater. I remember one kid saying how badly he wanted to become a ham, and my having to explain that there's a bit more to amateur radio than making pseudo phone calls (and half-duplex ones, at that)

Anyone know when the first repeater -> phone autopatch arrived on the scene?

nlh

What are regulations stopping now? (4)

Mick D. (89018) | more than 13 years ago | (#263004)

So using this as a history lesson that we can learn from, and hopefully not repeat. What tech is possible right now that The Powers That Be are preventing us from using, and how can we fix that to give ourselves access to that tech.

I am thinking regulations on private rocketry, genetic engineering, hydrogen/fuel-cell powered vehicles, and high quality encryption. Though the last one is making headway. Anyone have some other suggestions.

Fiction a testbed for new technology (4)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 13 years ago | (#263006)

Star Trek, Batman, Inspector Gadget -- they're all examples of how fiction has led science to new heights.

The most striking example of this for me was when I was looking at some old movies at the internet moving picture archive and watched "Once Upon a Honeymoon 1956" featuring color telephones as a color accessory in the home. An angel in big white brimmed glasses is sent down to earth. While in transit (he's just kinda falling out of the sky) he reaches into his robe and pulls out a wireless phone, just like our modern day cell phones, only larger to accomodate for the rotary dialer!

I'm sure we could point to many other examples. It's important that we pay attention to our creative thinkers for such ideas because they not only come up with challenges for scientists to grapple with, but they also help to demonstrate whether or not it would even make sense to invent X or Y.

It's unfortunate that Regulation is such a necessarily slow process. Otherwise we could be moving ideas from their testbed on the screen to full scale productions in the real world with unprecedented speed.

Phones in the 'ol days (5)

genkael (102983) | more than 13 years ago | (#263013)

Don't forget, Maxwell Smart had his shoe phone.

Re:I remember seeing (3)

Master Bait (115103) | more than 13 years ago | (#263020)

My father had a job in the mid sixties and he used a car phone in his company car. As I recall, he had to say his call letters to the operator and then have the operator dial the number he wanted.


blessings,

Re:It is a good thing... (3)

blazin (119416) | more than 13 years ago | (#263021)

Not to mention all the people today that'd have brain cancer from using a cell phone for the past 30-40 years.

Re:Pages of time (1)

jallen02 (124384) | more than 13 years ago | (#263024)

Great!! That finally makes something fall in place that has always buggedme.

I remember a movie with Mel Gibon Payback I think. I always thought that was out of place but definitely intentional! The things people remember ;) that just popped into my head. Cool!

Jeremy

Radio Restrictions (2)

enneff (135842) | more than 13 years ago | (#263028)

Organisations that are set up to control who can broadcast what over the airways just piss me off. Here in Melbourne, Australia, there are probably about 10 FM frequencies in use, most of which are commercial bollocks. Meanwhile, there are many smaller radio stations battling for their full-time liscences, taking turns (2 month slots) to broadcast.

Why can't anyone who can display a professional use of the spectrum be allowed to broadcast? It's not as if we've even nearly exhausted the FM frequency range. It just makes me think that the ABA, or FCC, are serving the interests of the commercial networks that force-feed their crap to the masses, due to lack of any real alternative.

[/rant]

Re:What are regulations stopping now? (3)

enneff (135842) | more than 13 years ago | (#263029)

Many would argue that restrictions on genetic engineering are holding back the advancement of mass food production techniques, prevention of hereditary illness, etc.

At the risk of seeming a conspiracy theorist: I'd say there's a very real possibility that it is not government regulations that are holding back the development (and implementation of) hydrogen powered vehicles, but economic inertia caused by the ever-powerful oil industry.

Private rocketry - now that's my idea of a good time. I'd say that the main restricting factor in this field is the $$$ it costs to build and run the bloody things.

High Quality Encryption is not so much held back by government restrictions (I believe the USA has recently lifted a ban on the export of cryptography), but by the fact that many people who show promise in the field are quickly snatched up by government agencies (or large corporations), and their efforts never reach the public. In any case, we have PGP, and that's pretty damn secure. (Although with the recent quantum encryption [slashdot.org] story, maybe not quite so secure)

Re:Things that have been prevented (2)

MongooseCN (139203) | more than 13 years ago | (#263030)

I live in an apartment and sometimes people can get in past the front door and come up to my apartment door. I've had people call me on their cellphone from there to tell me they were waiting out front, rather than using the doorbell at the front door like everyone else.

There's some good stuff about this... (1)

tcc (140386) | more than 13 years ago | (#263032)

We'd have filled the total availabled bandwidth really fast (assuming it would have been as popular back then) and needed for technology to catch up, at least now both can sine hands in hands.

Of course one could argue that blocking might have slowed innovation and technological advances, but I doubt at the current state that the technology was in different area composing a cellular phone (microprocessors, battery capacity/size, etc) I don't see how much of a slowdown it would have done. Today cellular phones are using the advances that were required for broader field (uC well, you know, Batteries are also for laptops to name 1 example, etc etc).

The only thing worrying me in all this is if they've blocked anything that could be really useful and could have been broadly deployed without much technological concerns...

i remember... (1)

drfrog (145882) | more than 13 years ago | (#263036)

travelling with my dad in the late 70's/early 80's using a radio phone by motorola

i managed to dial out
but when the operator got my call she wasnt to happy

Distributed power generation, for one (4)

Once&FutureRocketman (148585) | more than 13 years ago | (#263039)

A big one, especially out here in California, is wide-scale implementation of distributed power generation. Generating power on-site isn't a problem, but if you want to hook into the grid and sell your surplus, you have to descend into the morass of regulations that govern power utilities. And the "deregulation" of the power industry was anything but -- it was just a legal reorganization driven by a variety of special interst groups (and because the SIGs ranged from power utilities to environmentalists, the reorganization wasn't even coherent).

Distributed power generation has tremendous potential advantages, most notable being the reduction in line loss (which can be up to 40%) and better load/demand balancing.

Wireless telecom is another big one, which has been mentioned. The FCC sold out the American people bigtime on that one.

The laws governing private rocketry used to be extremely restrictive. They've gotten ALOT better in the last five years, although they're hardly perfect. The bigger government impediment is the government's involvement in the launch industry as a competitor. Not that they are competitive in terms of cost or anything else, but it has a big psychological effect on companies that might otherwise be willing to invest in development in the field.

As far as genetic engineering goes, I'm just as glad that there is regulatory oversight, even if it is inefficient and cumbersome. Genengineering is one of those genies that can't be put back in the bottle if it gets out, and I know just enough biology and chemistry to know just how little we truly understand about how the genetic code really works. For example, we just now figured out that humans have many, many fewer genes than we thought, which has forced us to totally rethink our theories about how these relatively few genes can encode enough information to build a people. It seems likely that that timing of expression and synergistic effect play a much larger role than we previously thought. Bottom line: this is NOT a well understood, mature science.

Oh yeah, and let's not forget nuclear power. Although nukes suffer a public image problem that is probably even more of an impediment than the regulatory restrictions. Which is a shame, because it is now possible to build a reactor that can't melt down no matter what. These reactors aren't as efficient as the older, hotter designs, but so what. Of course, there's still this small matter of waste disposal... But now we're back to the discussion of private rocketry :).

Re:There are good reasons for this. (1)

MR.Gates (161769) | more than 13 years ago | (#263041)

I know it might not be popular here on slashdot, but I am *very* pro-DMCA. Hacking needs curtailed at all costs and if it means loss of the first amendment (which, IMO is crap anyways) or a bunch of "hackers" and "linux dorks" getting their asses raped in prison and infected with AIDS then it's worth it.

Good thing for the First Amendment. /. would be goverment regulated, and your post would probably end up with you being fined or put into jail.

Sometimes tech adoption is too soon-safeguards-- (5)

vandelais (164490) | more than 13 years ago | (#263044)

such as in nuclear power, which was not safe when it was explored and implemented.

Sometimes, economies of scale would not have benefitted us and we may have ended with a monopoly by AT&T or worse. Cell phones are rumored to be dangerous (though unproven), but they may have actually been so with early adoption.

Think of the chemical industry. DDT helped millions avoid starvation, but in the end proved unsafe because of early adoption. Consider Thalidomide. Thalidomide is now recently a useful drug in treating certain types of cancers but is given a bad stigma because early adoption led to absent safeguards for the general public, providing birth defects to countless children.

Safety may have been a concern.

I remember seeing (1)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 13 years ago | (#263046)

a car phone in an episode of "I Love Lucy" from the 50's on nick at night. The handset looked like a regular phone with a twisty cable coming out of it. This tech has been around for a *very* long time. Only now is it affordable.

Re:Mmmmm. Rotarty dial cell phones. (4)

MrBogus (173033) | more than 13 years ago | (#263050)

That was exactly the problem: AT+T didn't like Cellular because that meant potential competition, and therefore didn't push the FCC too hard on the issue.

Because cellular is so cheap to build-out, they knew eventually it would be cost-competitive with landline telephones. (This has happened already, BTW, except American consumers have some inertia and tend to view a landline as a necessity and the mobile phone as the luxury item that they will pay more for.)

The FCC comprimise agreement was to allow 2 cell providers in each market. This AT+T approved of, because in a duopoly situation there isn't that much price competition. True enough, prices stayed high until the FCC auctioned off the PCS bands in the mid 90s.

Ironically, when AT+T was broken up, they didn't really even want the cellular division. So they basically dumped on the baby bells, which then worked it into a huge business. AT+T had to buy their way back into the market (at great expense) by purchasing McCaw Cellular in the mid-90s.

Re:Perry Mason (1)

CromeDome (184915) | more than 13 years ago | (#263056)

Along the same thread, I think I remember a number of Charlie's Angels episodes in which they used a car phone, well before widespread commercial use.

Measering technological adavavces with frequency?? (1)

mikenet (190660) | more than 13 years ago | (#263058)

Ok, this is mostly addressed to those people yelling "1GHz x86 faster than 500MHz workstation(yeach, there are 8 cpus, but still at 500MHz)" running much more effiencent code than their windows box... Since when was a wireless technological advance measuread with a center frequency? What does this have to do with technology? Why can't I have a PCS signal down at 400MHz? Only because there is more space at 1.9GHz!!! It makes absolutly no sense to me. Oh, I have a 1200 baud link at 10gigs, so it must be faster than my 220meg link. So antennas change at the higher freqs., but it has nothing to do with technology.

Re:Mmmmm. Rotarty dial cell phones. (3)

CaptainCap (194813) | more than 13 years ago | (#263059)

AT&T loved the competitive freeze which regulations generated. The regulations of the 60s and 70s kept modem leasing prices insanely high. And if you wanted to own a modem you still had to pay ripoff fees because your modem might corrupt the entire phone system. If AT&T had pressed for the mobile phones they might have gotten them, but then other parties and the FCC itself might have developed the expectation that the FCC should allow modern THINKING about things like the modem ripoffs.

Re:Seriously. (1)

trynis (208765) | more than 13 years ago | (#263067)

Well, it kind of took off. Like I said in another post, the first commercial mobile phone network was introduced in 1955 in Sweden. The receivers were trunk-sized, and not many could afford them. However, I believe this gave Scandinavia a head start in mobile technology, now dominated by companies like Ericsson and Nokia.

/Trynis

Mobile telephony celebrates 50 years (5)

trynis (208765) | more than 13 years ago | (#263068)

I submitted this a couple of days ago, but it was never posted. We actually had mobile phones in the 60's. In 1950 the first fully automatic mobile phonecall was made by an engineer at Ericsson. By 1955 the first commercially mobile phone system were in use in Sweden. The base stations had a coverage of 25-30km, and the phone equipment weighted about 50 kg. It was called MTA, and was later followed by MTB. In 1981 the first analogue cellular network was in use in the scandinavian countries. It was called NMT (Nordisk MobilTelefoni). (I realise that a mobile phone network is not necessarily a cellular network, but this seems relevant anyway.) Look here [aftonbladet.se] for more info (in swedish). /Trynis

Re:What are regulations stopping now? (5)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 13 years ago | (#263069)

Right now, we could have high speed wireless Internet.

The FCC auctioned off large blocks of microwave bandwidth, then Worldcom bought most of them from the auction winners. Most of these frequency allocations are just sitting idle now.

I've talked to people wanting to start wireless Internet ISPs, and I have to tell them "good luck". It's not that we don't have the technology, it's that the FCC has made it all but impossible for little players to get bandwidth in the microwave ranges for commercial use.

Note that I am talking about fixed point-to-point use, not the mobile wireless data technology that is being developed.
-

Ham Radio Telephone Patch. (1)

witchman (214735) | more than 13 years ago | (#263070)

I remeber in the late 70's my Dad had a 2 meter mobile ham radio in his car and the mic had a touch-tone dial pad one side of it. If we were in range of 'cell' site he could "patch" in and make a telephone call, without any operator assistance.

Re:Ham Radio Telephone Patch. (1)

witchman (214735) | more than 13 years ago | (#263071)

Yeah, now that you mention it, I remeber that they were called repeater sites. My Dad used to have a booklet with information on the repeater sites by state and county. I also remeber that they had the abillity to send Facsimiles, and that was the first time that I had ever heard of those, even though I didn't know what a Fax was yet.

Re:That's not so bad... (1)

witchman (214735) | more than 13 years ago | (#263072)

Yeah Democritus got himself into a pickle by proposing that the Universe consisted of nothing but atoms (real atoms not chemistry atoms) moving through space. But when everyone asked him to explain the movement part he balked. But that's understandable explaining how the Universe got moving is not an easy task. Anyway, good idea, way before it's usable time.

Re:Pages of time (1)

bobthemonkey13 (215219) | more than 13 years ago | (#263073)

Cell phones also have the ability to automatically switch between coverage areas without losing the call.

---

Cell phones in the 60's bigger than a shoe (2)

KarmaBlackballed (222917) | more than 13 years ago | (#263076)

Power consumption by even the best integrated devices in the 60's was just too much for even today's Li batteries to run for more than just a few minutes. The law was not the only thing keeping shoe phones off the market.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~ the real world is much simpler ~~

Re:What are regulations stopping now? (2)

hyacinthus (225989) | more than 13 years ago | (#263079)

Do you believe that there is a moral obligation to scientific and technological progress, then? I ask this, because you (and others on this topic) have demonstrated almost a horror that "The Powers that Be" prevented the development of a new technology. A technology of dubious utility, I would argue, but I would be in the minority there.

Are we, in fact, that much better off because of the wireless phone? And by whose definition of "better"?

I fully admit to having no answer to such questions; I just wish to counter the "onwards and upwards for no particular reason" inclinations which come out of the woodwork during discussions such as these.

hyacinthus.

Re:Pages of time (1)

Alatar (227876) | more than 13 years ago | (#263081)

So, it seems the FCC was right, such things were in the nature of a convenience or luxury, availible only to a select few who could afford the outrageous prices.

What I wonder is... (3)

Kasreyn (233624) | more than 13 years ago | (#263082)

...what technologies, that would make our lives better (taken with a grain of salt ;), are currently ready but likewise being held up by red tape? Another 30 years down the road we might be saying, "Man, the personal forceshield belt would have been great in the riots of 2011... pity it was stuck in red tape."

-Kasreyn

Pages of time (4)

Beowulf_Boy (239340) | more than 13 years ago | (#263087)

There are these little books in Cracker Barrels called pages of Time that have Adds from you birthyear.
I was looking at one from the 50's, and it had a guy talking on a phone in his car. Though the phone was a regular sized phone, and it went on a hook on the Dashboard. It was pretty funny looking, and they had to have a big CB type antenna, but it worked.

Well, Duh. (2)

JAVAC THE GREAT (239850) | more than 13 years ago | (#263088)

It has been well established that the FCC during the 60's was just the left hand of the military. Military radios, radar, and nuclear-control mechanisms all used the same 60-90MHz bands that cell phones would have used. Since back then, radio waves were not well understood, it is not surprising that the military was afraid that using common cell phone equipment, a common citizen might be able to hijack nuclear launch codes or interfere with ground-control radar.

Nowadays, of course, it is well-established that cell towers are covers for domestic surveillance operations, and we understand radio waves much better than we did 30 years ago. Especially with digital compression technology, it has become very easy to insert other data streams (not unlike a RIFF format) into compressed cellular streams, allowing quick and reliable military communications.

Now, I am certainly no expert on cellular technology, but it is not surprising that the 60s were not friendly towards these advances. The government at this time was occupied with hippies. What do you expect?
---

Seriously. (4)

JAVAC THE GREAT (239850) | more than 13 years ago | (#263089)

This would not have been practical. I seriously doubt this would have taken off even in the complete absence of regulation.

Trunk-size receives? Come on. What normal consumer is going to buy that. Think about it: if it were going to take off, but it was only the regulations stopping it from happening, why then did it not take off in Europe, Canada, or Japan? We have seen in recent history that fewer restrictions have made it easier for companies to create new wireless infrastructure in non-US countries, for example, the popularity of wireless messaging in the Netherlands and Japan, and the creation of wireless infrastructure in poorer countries.
---

Other devices that could have been invented sooner (4)

ideut (240078) | more than 13 years ago | (#263090)

I agree wholeheartedly with the argument put forth in the article. But I think there are many more "device classes", for want of a better word, which may have come about much sooner if it were not for heavy-handed regulation

For example, public key encryption was first discovered by GCHQ many years before it was independantly discovered by RSA.

Also of note is that the class of device which "Patent Information: 1970 Official Gaz. (U.S. Patent Office) 11 Aug. tm 65 Van Brode Milling Co., Inc., Clinton, Mass... Spork for Combination Plastic Spoon, Fork and Knife. "

If this had not been witheld from the public domain by the government-imposed patent system, sp0rk5 would be in wide use today and the world would be a far better place for it.

Re:Perry Mason (1)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 13 years ago | (#263091)

>> and could be easily scanned (or so I hear :))

And that's different from today how? .......

A-Scannin-We-Will-Go-Ly Yours,
MadCow.

I had... (1)

Das_Trench (243617) | more than 13 years ago | (#263092)

...a Johnson Viking, (I think that's right). It was a full bloan CB, 23 channels and lime green (stylish) all from the 70's. It had a telephone handset with a big button in between the mic and earpiece on it to key down. imagine slapping that in the Rolls Royce...

cloning / DNA engineering (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 13 years ago | (#263095)

Let's look at cloning. At the moment everybody agrees man should not clone humans.
Now think about sheep Dolly. How many years ago was that? Were people against cloning animals? Yup. Did people agree on cloning animans? Nope.
DNA engineering is used already on a very large scale. Hey, who eats cornflakes over here? Here (the Netherlands) you can find the word 'gemodificeerd' (modified) on the list of ingredients. What should they mean by modified? It only sounds better.
As I see it these things will develop stop by step very slowly. You simply can't stop progress. Sou can slow it down, but not stop it.


---

Other things prevented by red tape. (2)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 13 years ago | (#263096)

- cloning,
- free mp3 music,
- a cheap medicine for aids for the 3rd world,
- more, more more.

---

Re:It is a good thing... (1)

epicurus (252619) | more than 13 years ago | (#263097)

yeah, good point...if cell phones had been around back then, some of us might not be alive today (knowing the way my mom drives w/o talking on a phone, and knowing she has one now, and would've likely then, I surely never would've been concieved)

someone should organize a class action (2)

blonde rser (253047) | more than 13 years ago | (#263098)

How many loved ones died or were injured in accidents in the '60s. Could the damage of these accidents been lessened if someone had a cel phone available? Well get a lawyer and sue the government because obviously their red tape prevented that life from being saved. I wonder if anyone could actually get away with this.

Doesn't matter... (5)

cmowire (254489) | more than 13 years ago | (#263099)

I don't think that really matters that the FCC held back cell phones yere. Do you realize how fcsking HUGE those older cell phones were? If you apply moore's law, you will see that the mobile phone of 20 years earlier would have either been really fscking huge, signifigantly less capable, or both. The earliest research ones were the sort of thing that was perminantly wired into one's van.

We missed the boat by a few years, tops. Not the 20 years that the article says.

I mean, part of technological adoption is doing things at the right time. Cell phones came at the right time, with the right form factor and set of features, etc.

Re:Pages of time (1)

Mister Black (265849) | more than 13 years ago | (#263105)

Totally different technology though - you had to make a direct radio connection to a central Bell facility, where an operator would route your call to the local exchange. Sort of a throw-back to the 1920's. And IIRC the total capacity of the Chicago system, for example, was about 20 simultaneous calls.

So how is this different than a cellphone? The only thing different now from what you describe above is increased capacity and we replaced operators with computers.

Re:What are regulations stopping now? (2)

Robert Hutchinson (266739) | more than 13 years ago | (#263107)

If we got rid of the FDA, new drugs would get to market a lot faster, as would genetically-engineered foods. This is a double-edged sword, though. We might get new medicines faster, but we'd also have more dangerous drugs reaching consumers when they shouldn't.
It would be up to the consumers to take or not take drugs that had not been tested thoroughly.
And coming from the perspective of a farmer's son, I can tell you that if the EPA wasn't around, we'd have much better pesticides and herbicides. Of course, we'd still probably have DDT and all the proplems it's caused.
What problems are those? DDT was banned due to lies and misinformation, and thousands have died of malaria needlessly as a result. Here's the first link that was handy. [altgreen.com.au]

Robert Hutchinson

Re:What are regulations stopping now? (5)

SomeoneYouDontKnow (267893) | more than 13 years ago | (#263109)

Well, this depends on how broadly you want to look at this. Let's see. If we got rid of the FDA, new drugs would get to market a lot faster, as would genetically-engineered foods. This is a double-edged sword, though. We might get new medicines faster, but we'd also have more dangerous drugs reaching consumers when they shouldn't. And coming from the perspective of a farmer's son, I can tell you that if the EPA wasn't around, we'd have much better pesticides and herbicides. Of course, we'd still probably have DDT and all the proplems it's caused. Getting back to telecom, one could argue that less regulation is better, but a lack of regulation has killed technologies as well. Look at the AM stereo fiasco. The FCC decided not to choose a standard and let the marketplace decide between C-QUAM and the Kahn system. The result was two competing systems that hampered adoption of the technology. Eventually, C-QUAM won out in the marketplace, and Congress finally mandated it as the AM stereo standard, but by then it was too late. If the FCC had just made a decision and picked a system, AM radio might have had a better shot at survival. I'm not saying it would have, but the situation wasn't helped by the Commission's inaction. I don't think we should fall into the trap of thinking that our lives would be better without regulation per se. Without stupid, arbitrary regulation, yes, but regulations in and of themselves aren't all bad. If the telephone network had been allowed to grow based on market forces alone, rural areas wouldn't have received service when they did, and some places still might not have it, or they may only have it at exorbitant prices. And let's not even get into the broadband mess. No one regulates it, so if you get bad service or no service at all, you have no one to help you. I'm not necessarily saying we should impose rules, but there are pros and cons to everything.

psychadelicafied (2)

deran9ed (300694) | more than 13 years ago | (#263110)

Didn't military use cell phone techology back in those years, even prior to that?

The FCC has been a bit moronic [wired.com] on its regulation practices, past present and future. I wonder if their regulations have hindered technology from advancing tech to something better than it could have been.

Re:Mmmmm. Rotarty dial cell phones. (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#263111)

And I suppose that all phones would be owned by Bell and merely leased to us?

Hmm. My girlfriend's (fairly new) Motorola cellphone recently stopped working, and when she went back to Sprint to get it fixed, they told her that the warranty (provided by Sprint, not Motorola) allowed them to replace it with any phone of similar value. So she now has an ugly looking Samsung (which does work, I give it that.) Just to point out that aspects of many people's phones are still somewhat under the control of the provider.

there were mobile phones in the 50's (3)

brujito (301318) | more than 13 years ago | (#263113)

Scandinavians had mobile in 50s USA has always been slow at mobile comunications. Not because this stuff was not available in USA it means the rest of the world did not have it. first cell phone call was made in 1955. then in the 60s there was a provider for scandinavian countries.

Re:Well, Duh. (1)

Oneota (305567) | more than 13 years ago | (#263115)

I assume you were joking, but in case you weren't -- got any evidence to back those claims up?

What about Batteries? (3)

agotterba (312493) | more than 13 years ago | (#263116)

Even if the technology for transmission was availible 40 - 50 years ago, the batteries certianly were not. I have a phone that's about 6 years old, and by todays standards is considered massive, but only lasts 8 hours or so, with less than an hour of conversation.

I suppose you could have carried a battery box several times more massive than the ones used with cell phones in the late 80's. Picture: buisnessmen importantly wheeling shopping carts through the streets, differeing only from the homeless in the content of their carts.

Or you could have a little hand generator as remote radio operatiors did in Vietnam. Picture: buisnessmen in a restaurant imortantly spinning a little wheel as they talk to whomever.

That is probably why car phones were seen in media, as has been mentioned by several other posts, but having a personal phone always with you was not.

Re:Yes (1)

wb8wka (317538) | more than 13 years ago | (#263117)

Global infrastructure? Well my friend, we don't even have that today, so no, I don't find it funny. Europe cell phone standards are different then the U.S.'s Why waste everyone's time with trying to be the first off-topic post no matter what?

Re:The old radio phones (1)

wb8wka (317538) | more than 13 years ago | (#263118)

You mean you had to be a old white guy to own a radio phone in the 60's? ;-)

Re:Pages of time (3)

wb8wka (317538) | more than 13 years ago | (#263120)

I'm not sure I can agree with that. While that very well have been the impression, that same impression often predates the "next cool thing". I mean, who would have thought in the 70's that a GUI would be the standard today?

Good one (2)

JSR $FDED (410612) | more than 13 years ago | (#263121)

Don't be so American centric... just because America might have withheld some technological information in the sixties doesn't mean the rest of the world did too.

Enough X Files for you.

Re:Pages of time (5)

Penguin_Boi (411369) | more than 13 years ago | (#263122)

Radiophones were around. My dad (a small town doctor) had one in about 1962. As previously mentioned by Beowulf, it looked like a 60's wall type phone mounted on the dash. It had a long-ass whip antenna that you bent over and connected to a hook mounted on the rear door, and a large suitcase sized box of electronics (tubes and stuff maybe?) mounted in the trunk. It cost several hundred 1960s dollars, maybe even as much as a grand, but it didn't have much effect on your month to month phone bill (according to my Mom's recollections, my dad passed away in 1966).

It was a big deal to my dad that he had the first one in Arkansas, even the governor didn't have one at the time. We also had radio controlled toys, a stereo phonograph in 1959, FM radios before there were local stations to listen to on them, etc.

Re:SPORK THE CAVEMAN MORE ADVANCED THAN US PHONES! (2)

Gleenie (412916) | more than 13 years ago | (#263123)

Not at all; I work in the mobile telecommunications industry here in Australia & New Zealand. We both use GSM primarily, and I can tell you for a fact that the reason Motorola phones don't have a big market share is because they're simply not very good!

Compared to the Ericssons or the Nokias, they are a) big, b) ugly, and c) unreliable.

Having said that, my dad had a Motorola handbag-style analog for years and it was great. I guess Motorola lost their happy thoughts somewhere along the way.

That's not so bad... (1)

Supa Mentat (415750) | more than 13 years ago | (#263124)

It's not like this was the first time technology or knowledge was around and didn't make it until much later. A perfect example of this is the atom. The greek philosopher Democritus (I forget his life span but he was around when Aristotle was) thought up the atom a really long time ago and many of his predictions about it were acurate. But Aristotle was a much better orator than Democritus and so we got the four elements: earth, water, wind, and fire (if that's wrong, oh well). Not to hate on Aristotle, I mean he invented over thirty sciences, but damn; if he hadn't argued Democritus down where would we be now?!! Can you say, "Beam me up Scottie"?

Re:It is a good thing... (2)

CACSlave (442294) | more than 13 years ago | (#263126)

it might have actually been a good thing. just think of all the pintos that wouldn't have exploded by being rear ended. (from the article once car phones with trunk-sized receivers became a mass phenomenon,...

Re:What are regulations stopping now? (5)

Conare (442798) | more than 13 years ago | (#263127)

Personal tactical nuclear weapons. Ideal for home defense and we've had the tech since at least 1945!

cell phones in the 60's - NOT! (5)

mdz0 (447109) | more than 13 years ago | (#263129)

The "cell phone-like" systems to which many readers keep referring are primitive "radiotelephone" or "mobile phone service" systems. These were basic, analog, channelized two-way radios with a telephone handset, and a central dispatch office with a trunk to the telco - little better than walkie-talkies communicating with a base station.

More sophisticated systems had multiple "repeater" stations linked by phone lines to allow better coverage. Even this enhancement did not really make these dinosaurs practical for the masses.

They were sorely limited in all regards, and made very poor use of spectral resources compared to today's state of the art. They were available in most major metro areas, and a number of smaller ones, but could handle such a small number of simultaneous users that they could not practically be deployed on a wide scale.

Although the theoretical underpinnings for the modern cell phone - at least the original analog variety - were relatively mature in the 1960's, at least two key developments, and a substantial amount of engineering, precluded the appearance of something like AT&T's Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) - which is what we call 1G cell technology - until the late 1970's at the earliest:
  1. The microprocessor (uP) and the programmable read-only memory (PROM) (Intel, 1971)

    The complexity of the control software used even in first-generation cell phones - handling, among other things, control requests from the cell site to change to a different pair of frequencies and "handoff" to another cell site - pretty much precluded pure-hardware implementations this early in the game.
  2. Low cost solid state devices able to operate at 1 GHz (Motorola and a few others, early 1970's)

    High-frequency solid state devices and microstripline circuitry made possible the RF tranmitter and receiver components needed to build reasonably portable cell phones. Although devices working at somewhat lower frequences were available in the 1960's, there simply wasn't enough free spectrum space that low in the RF spectrum for practical deployment of a cell phone system which could support many users.
----

These two developments, plus an enormous amount of elbow grease, allowed AT&T to deploy AMPS in Chicago in 1983 (right before the Consent Decree broke them up into the Baby Bells) - the world's first high-capacity cell-based full-duplex communication system, featuring frequency re-use among cells, frequency-agile base stations and portable (customer) units, providing connections between each other and the public switched telephone network (PSTN), and offering a user interface nearly identical to the standard POTS telephone!!

It WAS black magic...
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