...Redifining Journalism for Development

Recognizing the 21st Century Inventors (1) by Professor MK Othman



Recognizing the 21st Century Inventors is a corollary to my series of articles; recognizing first generation and second generation’s inventors, which I started in November 2016 published intermittently up to the last one on 30th March 2018 titled “Recognizing the Second Generation Inventors V”.
The articles were on inventions made by hardworking scientists and geniuses across the globe. It was a kind of tribute to recognize inventors and their inventions to address various challenges against humanity and environment or increase efficiency of our daily chores. Readers may recall that the last article on second-generation inventors was on the invention of “cellular phone” popularly called “mobile phone”. Mr. Martin Cooper, a North American based engineer, the then General Manager of Motorola in the 1970s, was credited to be “the inventor of handheld cellular mobile phone (distinct from the car phone) in 1973. Ten years after, he led the team that fully developed a cellular phone and brought it to market in 1983. For this reason, he is considered the “father of the cell phone” and is also cited as the first person in history to make a handheld cellular phone call in public, the first wireless mobile phone call on April 3, 1973. After successful development of the phone, Martin took the phone, a Motorola early model called DynaTAC, which was a brick phone weighing 1.13 Kilogram, measuring 23 centimeters long and 13 centimeters width, and featuring about 20 minutes of battery life in the streets of New York City. He pressed the phone’s “off hook” button and he made a call to the landline of Bell Labs, where he was connected to his counterpart, Joel Engel. “Joel, this is Marty,” he gleefully said, “I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone.”

The DynaTac Phone

“As I walked down the street while talking on the phone,” Martin later admitted, “sophisticated New Yorkers gaped at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call, “Consequently, “the Dyna-TAC” was the first cellular phone finally introduced by Motorola. It was the first commercially available mobile phone in 1983, which was sold at a staggering cost of $3,500, then equivalent to £2,170 at time of the release.
Martin Cooper’s role in conception and development of the first portable cellular phone impacted his choice to start and lead ArrayComm, a wireless technology and systems company founded in 1992. ArrayComm’s core adaptive antenna technology increases the capacity and coverage of any cellular system and significantly lowers costs while making cellular calls more reliable. The technology addresses what Martin calls “the unfulfilled promise” of cellular, which should be, but still isn’t as reliable or affordable as wired telephone services. ArrayComm has also used its adaptive antenna technology to make the Internet more “personal” by creating the i-BURST Personal Broadband System, which delivers high-speed, mobile Internet access that consumers can afford. “It’s very exciting to be part of a movement toward making broadband available to people with the same freedom to be anywhere that they have for voice communications today,” Martin was quoted by an online publication “ThoughtCo” on 19th April 2017. He further said. “People rely heavily on the Internet for their work, entertainment, and communication, but they need to be unleashed”. These series of articles and many others can be accessed via my blog, www.breakthroughwithmkothman.blogspot.com
The 21st Century witnesses several inventions that make life easy and enjoyable. Multiple inventors across nations, tribes, and religious adherents worldwide made the inventions. The easiness and joyousness of life made by these inventions are sometimes countered by security threats related to some of the inventions (this is a story for another day). Nevertheless, the inventors deserve full recognition and accolade by the society for their ingenuity, creativity and vision. Till date, the best invention of the 21st century is in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for its diversity, robustness and applicability in all other sectors of development; transportation, agriculture, finance, mining, and many others. After the invention of cell phone at the tail end of 20th Century, what were the “follow up” inventions that transformed the cellular phone to its current status? How can life be without cellular phone and Internet services today?
The earlier models of cellular phones like Dyna Tac Nokia, Mobira and Talkman were heavy, bulky, massive and very expensive with short-duration battery lives and shorter talk time, thus, were primarily used in the sales and business world, but not often for personal use as popularly done today. Overcoming these lapses – heaviness, short duration battery lives and expensiveness became the major concerns of the innovators for the subsequent cellular phones. The target is to package all desirable features of phone users (customers) into a smaller, portable, more affordable, efficient and durable cell phone model. Then, the main purpose of the cell phone was simply “talking”. However, within a decade or two, there was general shift from early cell phones made “just for talking” to sophisticated means of communication individually and collectively. Progressively, features like voicemail and camera were added until the emergence of Smartphones, which integrated several features and allow users to access email, use the phone as a fax machine, pager, and address book. Thus, the shifting transformed the cell phone communication tool to a multimedia tool with a robust diversity. Now cell phones are used for surfing the websites, checking email, snapping photos, and updating social media status than actually placing calls. No doubt, the emergence of Smartphone revolutionizes the entire cell phone industry. Smartphones have excellent screen resolution that allows installation of different software titles with an expanding capacity that can hold as much memory as a desktop computer can do. This is assiduously replacing several media gadgets, such as still and video cameras, scanners, fax machines, radio, television and several others. Cellular phone is transformed into a virtual toolbox with a solution for almost every need of humanity. This became possible when Internet service was integrated with cellular phone and thus, the service is partly responsible of the sophistication of the Smartphones. Furthermore, the Internet service evolved aptly with the creation of 3G networks in the early 2000s. 3G networks could transmit data at broadband speeds. Smartphones could access websites as fast as any computer could and thus, 3G networks permit phones to stream audio, video, and display full websites. Which make of phones were the early “Smartphones”?
Nokia was the king of these 2G phones in the late 90s and early 2000s and then followed by Motorola Razras the most popular phone of the 3G. In the early 2000s, Smartphones were mostly for enterprise users. And the king of Smartphones was still the BlackBerry, which was mostly just used as emailing machine with phone capabilities. However, the Smartphone completely changed forever when Apple launched the touch screen-only iPhone in 2007 and then no one could favorably compete with iPhone. It took a few years before the competition could catch up, although, they got a lot better over time. Google was the first to come up with a viable competitor to the iPhone with its Android operating system. The first Android phone debuted in late 2008 on the T-Mobile G1, which was made by HTC. It wasn’t as good as the iPhone, but it was a great start and giving customers value for their money. Android improved dramatically over a period of one year and began to take off in late 2009 with the launch of the Motorola Droid on Verizon. The phone had a brand new version of Android that held up pretty well against the iPhone. It also had a physical keyboard and removable battery, two things people couldn’t get with the iPhone. Google introduced its first Smartphone, the Nexus One, in January 2010. HTC made the hardware, but it was still considered as Google’s phone. Unfortunately, the Nexus One turned out to be a dud and Google stopped selling it within a few months. Shortly after the Nexus One launched, other major manufacturers like Samsung and HTC began cranking out a ton of Android phones. In 2010, Samsung debuted the first Galaxy S phone. HTC introduced the EVO 4G. Both set a new standard for high-quality Android phones. Microsoft was late to the new touch-based Smartphone game. It launched Windows Phone 7 at the tail end of 2010 to lukewarm reviews. Since then, Windows Phones have gotten a lot better thanks to the most recent version of the OS, Windows Phone 8. Who are the people or inventors of BlackBerry, Apple and Android operation systems, responsible for making the so-called Smartphones what they are today?
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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