Martin Cooper isn’t a household name. Most people don’t even know who he is, yet the world runs on his hard work and innovation – namely, his belief that telephones are meant to connect people to one another. Cooper dreamed of a time where a telephone number didn’t just connect a person to a home, a car, or a restaurant, but directly to another person – anytime, anywhere.  
  
Cooper graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, receiving a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in 1950. Four years later, he started working for Motorola, a company known for working on new designs for two-way radios. He then earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from IIT, and spearheaded projects involving wireless communications. He didn't just focus on telephone communications, either – some of the first radio-controlled traffic-light systems were created by Cooper, as well as the first handheld police radios in 1967!  
  
Cooper’s dream of having wireless telephones was not a new concept. AT&T - which was the largest telecommunications company in the world - had created wireless channels for their users back in 1946, making car phones a reality. The phone's signal could be carried over a geographical area, passing from transmitter to transmitter in individual “cells” of territory. However, only 11 or 12 channels were available at any given time, and users would often be placed on waitlists for years hoping for a user to cancel their service. AT&T’s wireless phone was linked to a customer’s car because the phone could only be powered by car battery.  
  
Realizing that AT&T's wireless channels had potential, Cooper did not believe in isolating people in cars for them to use their phones made the devices limited and restrictive. Motorola and Cooper also opposed the idea of a complete monopoly that AT&T had over telephone services, so they fought back.  
  
Using the handheld police radios as a model, and drawing inspiration from Captain Kirk of Star Trek, Cooper began experimenting. Cooper knew that – though fictional at the time - the Starship Enterprise communicators were the future. They were able to contact other starships and speak with crew members both on ships and on planets, and they were mobile because the crew could take a communicator with them wherever they went. Cooper knew humanity would one day invent phones with this same flexibility, but first he needed to make a truly mobile, wireless, handheld phone to jumpstart the future.  
  
In 1972-1973, in a bid to one-up the giant that was AT&T, Cooper led his Motorola team of 8 guys to create the first wireless phone.  
  
It only took them 90 days.  
  
On April 3, 1973, on 6th Avenue in New York City, Cooper made the first public telephone call in front of a crowd of journalists. He used this historic phone call to speak to his rival Joel Engel, the head of research of AT&T Bell Labs. “I said, ‘Hi Joel, it’s Marty Cooper. I’m calling you on a cellphone — but a real cellphone. A personal, handheld, portable cellphone.’ And there was silence,” Cooper said. “I think he was crying into his teeth. I’m only conjecturing.”  
  
He made several phone calls, drawing shocked stares from New Yorkers as he talked animatedly near Radio City Music Hall.  
  
“I made numerous calls, including one where I crossed the street while talking to a New York radio reporter – probably one of the more dangerous things I have ever done in my life,” Cooper said.  
  
This first Motorola mobile phone available for the public to purchase came in 1983. It weighed 30 ounces (nearly 2 pounds) and had a battery life of only 20 minutes (which “wasn’t really a big problem because you couldn’t hold the phone up for that long”), but Cooper knew this was just the first step to even greater things. Cooper changed the future because he built on what he knew and what had succeeded, and he fought to improve what was lacking.  
  
The inventor of the modern cell phone had hoped that one day the world would be connected. Cooper had believed his creation would one day reach half the people in the world – in reality, 40 years after his historic phone call, there are more phones on Earth than people. Cell phones have taken humanity into the future, and our world now looks much like the world of Star Trek from which Cooper drew so much inspiration. Just as Star Trek's communicators had a personal assistant, we have Siri and Cortana. Just as Star Trek's communicators had access to information and archives, we have the Internet. Humanity can connect their cell phones to their car and talk hands-free, or projected onto a screen.  

"I have a mantra that people are naturally, fundamentally, and inherently mobile," Cooper said. With the way smart phones and tablets now have GPS tracking devices in them, his statement speaks true. Cooper connected the world because he knew it was inevitable, he just got there first - and it all started with a constrictive car phone and Star Trek.