In 1968 the F.C.C. re-considered the Bell System's ten year old request for 75 MHz of spectrum in the 800 MHz band. The F.C.C. considered it only when waiting lists for radio-telephone service were so backlogged that the government could not ignore them. Yet it would be another eight years before the F.C.C. granted additional spectrum and two years after that before the first trial of a cellular system.
For a much bigger picture of this1AESS master control panel click here
In the mean time, the first digital telephone switches appeared by the mid 1970s. These switches were now quick and smart enough to handle the hundreds and then thousands of simultaneous calls a high capacity mobile telephone system would have to handle. A Western Electric 1AESS is pictured on the right. Microprocessor technology advanced too, decreasing in size and price, increasing in power. Their smaller size let these powerful processors go into not only digital switches but portable equipment like cell phones. Radio prices kept dropping while at the same time capabilities increased.
For more great pictures of various central office switchgear visit this site:
http://www.montagar.com/~patj/phone-switches.htm (external link)
On October 17, 1973, Dr. Martin Cooper for Motorola filed a patent entitled 'Radio telephone system.' It outlined Motorola's first ideas for cellular radio and was given US Patent Number 3,906,166 when it was granted on September 16,1975. In the New York Times photograph above he shows off the earliest handheld model. But it was not until late 1984 that Motorola was allowed to field a commercial cellular telephone system.
Modern Citizen's Band transceiver. Operates on 40 channels. Point to point transmission. No connection to the landline telephone network unless manually patched through.
Helped in part by falling electronic prices, America went through a Citizen's Band fad in the mid to late 1970s, with millions buying hand-held and car-mounted two way radios. Such large numbers of people applied for C.B. permits that the F.C.C. could not keep up with the flood of paperwork and consequently dropped all operator license requirements. With no license required and no enforcement of C.B. regulations, Citizens Band ceased being a good way to communicate. Although some truck drivers still use it for highway communications, disturbed people, often shouting obscenities for minutes at a time, now monopolize the C.B. band. But the large number of users showed demand for cellular telephones would be very high. So it was that the first commercial cellular systems were from the beginning a success.
Personal radio spawns dreck. Disco wasn't the only cultural disaster happening in 1978. In that same year Sam Peckinpah produced the abysmal movie Convoy. Subverting the humorous novelty hit Convoy, the movie portrayed desperate people uniting against evil, with C.B. radio as the technology that helped liberate them. Yes, it was as stupid as it sounds.
In 1984 the former Bell System company Ameritech began a cellular system in Chicago, Illinois. Western Electric, Oki Electric, E.F. Johnson and others supplied network equipment and phones. Near Washington, D.C. in that same year another cellular carrier started operating, using Motorola equipment. These were analog systems, sturdy, but featureless compared to today's all digital cellular networks. At first only car-mounted telephones were available, you drove to your local telephone company for installation and service. Portables came out in great number in the mid-1980s.
The first OKI car mounted cellular telephone. Used by Ameritech in the first United States commerical cellular system. Click here for a much larger image