Cellphone Inventor Cooper Trails Heinlein Again

Marty Cooper has predicted that, in the future, cell phones will be implanted behind your ear and will use bone conduction in place of speakers.

Once again, Cooper is behind the times.


(Cellphone inventor Marty Cooper)

In 1973, Cooper made the first phone call from his prototype Dyna-Tac handheld cellular phone in New York City. The call connected Cooper with a base station that in turn connected him to the land-line telephone system. Cooper has stated that he was personally inspired by watching Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise use communicators on Star Trek in the late 1960's.

If Cooper had been reading Robert Heinlein, he could have invented the cell phone in the 1950's.


(Pocketphone visionary Robert Heinlein)

Heinlein wrote about the idea of a pocketphone in his 1953 novella Assignment in Eternity, and a pocket-sized portable telephone in his 1948 novel Space Cadet.

Now, Marty Cooper is back in the news, this time with a prediction that you will no longer need one of those bulky 6 ounce pocket-sized phones:

"The cellphone in the long range is going to be embedded under your skin behind your ear along with a very powerful computer who is in effect your slave."

Well, it turns out that Heinlein got to this idea first, too. In his eerie 1951 classic The Puppet Masters, he writes about an audio relay:

The sort of phone my Section uses is not standard; the audio relay is buried surgically under the skin back of my left ear - bone conduction.

Update 11-May-2012: It turns out that the first person to file a patent on a device that transmitted sound via bone conduction was none other than Hugo Gernsback; he filed a patent for an "acoustic device" in 1923 (he later referred to it as an "osophone"). His patent was granted by the US Patent Office in 1924.

This invention relates to acoustical instruments and the important objects of the invention are to provide simple and practical means by which hearing may be effected by sound vibrations transmitted directly to the osseous tissue of the body. A particular purpose is to provide such means in the form of a small, compact and handy instrument which can be easily carried about and used without attracting undue attention.
(See Gernsback's patent drawings acoustic apparatus (osophone))

End update.

If you're wondering what else might be coming down the pike, technologically speaking, why not read more about 138 of Robert Heinlein's ideas and inventions?.

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