45 years ago, first mobile phone hit B.C. streets with spotty, expensive calling

Motorola celebrates 45th anniversary since unveiling of first-ever mobile phone on April 3, 1973

Today marks the 45th anniversary of an essential piece of technology we know maybe a little too well today, as the mobile phone hits four-and-a-half decades in the hands of Canadian consumers.

On April 3, 1973, Motorola unveiled the DynaTAC. Known as the “brick” phone, it measured 10 inches in length and weighed two pounds.

However, B.C. consumers had had to wait 10 years for the phone to pass federal approval in September of 1983 before they could invest $3,995 into the game-changing technology.

B.C. man Vid Wadhwani still remembers buying the phone – but said it was more for show than anything else.

“Because there were not as many cell towers, calls dropped all the time. There were many parts of Vancouver and areas that did not have cell coverage,” he said, noting it took years for the Marry Hill Bypass to gain reception.

But similar to today’s long lineups for the newest iPhone release, Wadhwani had to get his hands on the DynaTAC for both pleasure and work.

The phone carried a hefty price tag; about $9,000 in today’s dollars.

As a broker, taking calls at anytime from clients was a game changer, he said. Now a laughable memory of ’80s pop culture, the phone was “most likely to impress the chicks,” Wadhwani added.

In addition to spotty connection, the DynaTAC had its quirks, including some that wouldn’t fly in today’s world of constant communication. For one, an overnight charge got you 45 minutes of actual use.

“Back then you did not leave your phone on all the time,” he said. “Only when you thought you were going to need it.”

And then there was the cost of actually making a call. Each call was roughly 60 cents per minute, which would be about $1.30 now.

“If you talked for 61 seconds, you were charged $1.20,” he recalled.

Now owning the iPhone 8, with features like FaceTime and read receipts on text messages becoming commonplace amongst mobile users, Wadhwani said he never would have thought at the time that brick phone would be replaced by a mini-computer in his pocket.

“[It’s] a completely different world,” he said. “Very quick progression from back then that couldn’t have been imagined.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Vid Wadhwani is a family member of Black Press Media reporter Ashley Wadhwani


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