How the First Cell Phone Call Changed the World!
[MUSIC] Hello everybody. My name is Al Pisano and I'm the Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering here at UC San Diego. Today I am the luckiest dean in the country because I get to sit with Marty Cooper and talk to him about the 50th anniversary of the first handheld cell phone call. Marty, I'm so happy to be here. As I said, we brought your book Cutting the Cord, and we know that you have had an incredible career as an engineer at Motorola an entrepreneur on your own right, and of course, a national academician.
I thought we might get started, and I would just ask, I'm sure everyone is trying to celebrate this 50th anniversary with you, can you give me an idea about how much they've been asking you to run around and celebrate with them? Well, first of all, let me tell you it's my privilege, and I'm lucky to be here with you, I said that I value our friendship greatly. I value the fact that I'm lucky enough to live here very close to UCSD, that in itself is a privilege to me. We're making a big fuss about the 50th anniversary, my first reaction is what took so long? [LAUGHTER] But the fact is that my colleagues believe as I do that people don't really recognize that the cell phone has not been here always.
Everybody takes it for granted, and I think it's important that people realize, first of all, that the cell phone did just happen, that it almost didn't happen. Secondly, that we are only at the beginning of what I refer to as the cell phone revolution. Marty, let me ask you to emphasize that first piece that you've teased us with, that it almost didn't happen. I reinforce that everyone thinks, well, it's a done deal, it was obvious at the time. Everyone wanted it, didn't they? It sounds like maybe that wasn't the case.
What's the real story about it maybe not happening? Well, of course, you're exactly right. There were a lot of skeptics. Very few people thought that the cellphone would be profound. Something after all, we have to telephone everybody in the world that had a telephone. The people that invented the concept of cellular having multiple cell sites, it was the Bell System.
You're too young to remember the Bell System now. [LAUGHTER] But this was a monopoly, at some point in our lives, you could even buy a telephone. You had to rent it from the phone company, and there was always a black phone always had a dial on it.
They had actually thought about the idea of cellular in 1947. There are usually usual rapid pace. In 1968, they decided maybe they should implement that. Their version of cellular telephony, it was, first of all, car phones.
We had been trapped at our desks and in our homes by this telephone wire, now we're going to be trapped in our car. At Motorola we didn't think that was a reasonable at all. Their second view was that they were going to be a monopoly. The reason for that was that they didn't believe there was much of a market.
They hired an accounting firm to study that. The conclusion of this firm was there would never be more than a million phones in the world that were car phones, a million cellular phones. Of course, they were right. The maximum number of car phones that existed in the world were about a million.
As you know, there are more handheld cellular phones today than there are people. About 2/3 of the people on Earth have subscriptions to cellular phones. There has been a great deal of progress since then. Why did it almost not happen? Right. Remember, the Bell System was the biggest company in the world by every measure. Motorola with this little company in Chicago, and we decided to take the Bell System out because if they had succeeded, the systems would have been built for car phones.
Handheld phone simply would not have worked, the power was not high enough. If we had not succeeded, if we had that persuaded the FCC and the Congress to allow the marketplace to decide what these phones are going to be, it might have been 10 or 20 years before we had handheld phones. It really might have been a very different world.
Marty I'm struck by the fact that we have yet again, a story that we tell over and over again today in a different context. That there's a David versus Goliath issue behind every entrepreneurial thinking. I hadn't realized it was quite the David versus Goliath situation with you, Motorola and of course Bell. But what we have here is a brick, as I understand. I've never used a brick. The closest I ever got was putting concrete on it and stacking them to make a wall.
Tell me a little bit about how you got to this particular brick, as I think is the nickname for this cell phone. Sure. This is an exact model of the very first handheld cellphone. [OVERLAPPING]
Does that include the weight? Because it weighs a couple of pounds. Actually it weighs about a kilo, two-and-a-half pounds. The battery life of this unit was 25 minutes.
Oh my goodness. That really wasn't a problem because you couldn't hold it up for 25 minutes it was so heavy. [LAUGHTER] The design actually didn't start out that way. I decided that we needed to do a dazzling demonstration if we were going to get the attention of the FCC, of the Congress to let them know this travesty that the Bell System was trying to implement to us against society, specifically against Motorola, because they wanted to not only take over telephone communications, but two-way radio communication, which was our business. Why? They didn't think the market was big enough.
They didn't think as a result of their studies there ever be a really large number of phones so they were doing this just because it was an obligation. At some point in this discussion, we were starting to worry about whether the Bell System was going to be successful. Motorola management decided that they were going to go to New York, and put on a demonstration of two-way radios so that they could persuade the Congress and the FCC, how important two-way radios were. Well, all I have to tell you, there's nothing more boring than two-way radios [LAUGHTER] even though the two-way radios are the glue that keeps the police departments, fire departments, businesses going.
When I told my mother what I did for a living, she was really disappointed. [LAUGHTER] She wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor or a judge, that would be nice. That's when I decided, we have to have a dazzling demonstration, something that really keeps people's attention. I approached the management told them I wanted to get this demonstration, not only be two-way radios, but let's show them what the real freedom is that you could get from being able to talk on a telephone, moving everywhere.
Doesn't sound very impressive for you, but at that time, [OVERLAPPING] it was an impressive thing. Let me jump in there for a second and explore an issue. We've known each other almost 10 years. This is the first time you started talking about doing something with flair and excitement to shift the way people think. Was something like that behind your decision to make the first handheld cell phone call from a street in New York to a particular person? Was there an issue of dazzle that you were trying to introduce there when you made that first call? Al you have to know about us engineers, we never achieve anything if we don't persuade people what we're doing is going to improve humanity, that's going to attract people's attention, they're going to be useful. Somehow, we engineers do get to be showman from time-to-time, and that's exactly what we were doing.
Back in 1973, we were trying to do what I call a dazzling demonstration that would really grab people's attention, and that really was our intent, it was not to show off this magnificent technology. It didn't in fact happened to be a demonstration of technology as well. Because at that time, the technology to do 900 megahertz was unimaginable. Nobody had done two-way radios in 900 megahertz.
Nobody had done a duplex radio where you could talk and listen at the same time. Nobody had put a handheld device 500 radio channels. That had not been done before. All of these things had to be done in a period of three months because that's all we had. The demonstration was already planned for New York on April 3rd, 1973, and we had that amount of time to do.
Fortunately, we have that technology spread all over Motorola. All I have to do is go there, visit the other divisions of the departments, and I found pieces of technology everywhere. The management supported me and provided me with a team of the most marvelous engineers headed by a guy named John Lindner, the design group that had to come up with a configuration that was run by a guy named Rudy Krolopp. He was working for the whole corporation, he stopped work for anybody else.
He didn't stop charging them, you understand. [LAUGHTER] Put his whole team to work designing what the future of a handheld portable telephone would look like. These guys were magnificent, they came up with four different versions and they're pictured in my book. There was a flip phone number, there was a slider phone, there was a lot of different phones.
My goodness. We ended up selecting this phone because it was simple. The one thing we didn't need it with a complicated thing that would break in the middle of a demonstration. So, Marty, you introduced two themes in that story and I want to explore each of them. The first one was, I think you took an incredibly entrepreneurial view, even though you're working for an established company, and you assemble the team such that you had enough people to do each piece of the puzzle as it were, assemble each piece of the puzzle.
Does that translate into any advice or wisdom that you could give young people today who are thinking of being entrepreneurs? Because it strikes me that you were acting like a pure entrepreneur in the middle of a big company. Motorola was small but not tiny, so it was a big concern. Is there anything that you want to draw out or emphasize about that? Well, as mentioned you talked about the lucky part of our relationship. The luckiest thing that ever happened to me business-wise is going to Motorola. Because the founder of Motorola, a guy named Paul Galvin, wasn't an entrepreneur.
Established a motto which was emblazoned on the wall of our lobby. Do not fear failure. Reach out. I took that seriously. In my entire career, I never cared about whether I was going to be successful or not. It was whether what I was doing was right, and was it a correct thing to do.
There again, I'm the luckiest person in the world because for 30 years, Motorola tolerate me, I was not a corporate guy. [LAUGHTER] I did have my share of failures, which we could talk about, but I'd really much rather talk about our successes. Successes, of course. The other track that you really stimulated in my mind was talking about the technology of the phone.
First off, I'm just excited to hear that so many visions of cell phones that we take for granted today in a box at home, I have one of each of these, a flip, a slide, and all that. Early on you and your team cooked up all those visions, can you tell me a little bit about how the technology in this phone is related to technology today? For example, when you said 900 megahertz, I said, "That sounds familiar. That's the cordless phone I have at home. It talks to its base station."
How much similarity between a cell phone today would this phone have now? In other words, talk to me about some generations and how we get from where you started to where we are. Well, as I've mentioned, this phone was at 900 megahertz in 1973, we were building two radios with 450 megahertz and we were pushing the technology. We had a vacuum tube and final amplifiers because we couldn't do that with a transistor. We had a large-scale integrated circuit in this unit, but it was very elementary. It's the only way that you could do with 1,000 channels in a small thing like this.
It was actually an experimental chip in our semiconductor division. A modern cell phone has tens of thousands of radio channels, and they keep adding more and more all the time. In fact, the latest cell phones actually have satellite channels on them. Of course, a modern phone has a camera and has access to the Internet. Neither of those things existed in 1973, there were no digital cameras.
The Internet had not yet been made public, something. The differences between that old phone and today are really quite remarkable. Well, we could never have predicted all of those things. Could not only be put into a single-handed phone but one that was so small that it could fit in your hand and drop it or pocket. Right. What you're explaining
now triggers a thought in my mind, which is the industry of cell phones does not seem to have just quietly glided from one beginning place through an intermediate step to where we are now. It sounds like that there were revolutions and evolutions and sometimes cataclysmic changes. I don t know if a lot of people in the audience have ever heard of TDMA or CDMA or FDMA or some of these other things, these protocols as it were. But I think starting from the brick and getting to a phone that we might pull out of our pocket now, there have been revolutions along the way, cataclysmic changes.
Give the audience a sense of that because I want the younger perspective engineers, for example, to understand that it isn't always just smooth evolutionary sailing, sometimes there are some precipices. Explain some of that for us. A very crucial point that you made because the very first cell phones were actually analog.
I think they use the same technology as an FM radio, and the only problem with that is that the capacity of a system using analog technology is very limited, and the ability to have repeated sectors over a city was not nearly good enough. As we went through the Earth, we came up with new forms of modulation. First of all, TDMA time division multiple access. Then we came up with CDMA. Today we use a combination of those and whole whole bunch of other technologies. All of them trying to reach the limit of Shannon's Law, which we're pretty much out now.
We have gone about as far as you could go with the coating of the signals. We still have run out of spectrum and are running on spectrum. It is way we are but one of the things we haven't gotten to what I do for a living now, but I have a belief that there are tools that we can use to improve the capacity of the spectrum. I made an observation about 25 years ago that somehow or other from the time that Marconi made his very first - his very first phone call, which by the way, involved the millions of watts of energy in [LAUGHTER] a very inefficient way that from then until now, we have doubled the capacity of the usable radio spectrum every 30 months, every two-and-a-half years. If you do the arithmetic there, we are now 10 trillion times the capacity of the usable radio spectrum compared with Marconi. There are people who are now saying, well, we're at the limit, you just can't go any further.
By belief is that we're just beginning and that technology we already know today how to go another million times increasing capacity within the next 50 years or so, and there's technologies you just know that are going to come up later. I actually created a law, and I call it the law of spectrum of capacity. Some people call it Cooper's law.
As long as you believe it, I don't mind they're calling it Cooper's law. If you don't believe it. [LAUGHTER] [LAUGHTER] But there's no question in my mind that if people use the modern technologies we're not going to run on a spectrum in the foreseeable future. Martin, this part of the story from me brings out an important point. It seems that almost every technology reaches some limit. Steam engines can only go so fast, carriages can only go so fast, airplanes can only go so fast, but they reached that limit at a certain time in a technology arc.
Then everyone seems to crowd up against that limit and then there's someone who breaks through from propeller engines they went the jet engines, whoops twice the speed, who'd have thought? Is the some pattern that you're seeing and bring it back to the spectrum if you like. This seems to be a dielectric in engineering, everyone sees a barrier, we all crowd up against it, someone breaches the barrier, we all rushed through. I think in several times in your story in a short time we've spent together, that pattern has emerged over and over again.
You did your best you could with vacuum tubes, but eventually there was a way around the way to run. Did you want to expand a little bit more in terms of your general thoughts about technology in general or how it works for spectrum or what advice you might want to give people thinking about this? Well, that's a very profound comment you made. You know there are two ways of approaching an engineering problem. One is to take existing technology, maybe extrapolate that existing technology and figure out what you can do at a given moment. Some of us tend to be dreamers and we started at the other end. What could you do if you had the best of all technologies or technologies that didn't even exist, and so that is the approach that I took in thinking about the fact that someday everybody would want to have one of these things and we're not going to worry about whether there's a limit to the amount of spectrum that was available.
But I had another thing going for me in this regard, and that is we are so inefficient at how we use the spectrum. That's why we can go into a billion times better and still those that will go further than that. Think about the way we do even today cell site will have an antenna and transmitted energy it starts out with 40 watts of energy and it transmitted to all directions and the only useful part of that L is a tiny abound 10-12 difference between the power that little bit that comes to the antenna of your radio all the rest is wasted.
Well, you know if you're a dreamer you say, well, someday we will be able to transmit just a little bit of energy and pick that up because we can go from one point to another and spread the stuff all around and guess what, that technology exists today and we're even go beyond that. Martin, I was taken by your comment that so much energy is wasted and there's so much opportunity there. One thing that came to my mind was there are faculty at the Jacobs School of Engineering and other places who are working on form to beam antennas, antennas that can take all their energy and either spread it or focus it as needed.
How do you see all of that coming together for future generations of wireless and I'll offer this as a starting point. Are we going to see a world in which there are many smaller antennas, or fewer mega antennas, and what did these smaller antennas look like and what did they do with beam-forming and energy conservation? Way out that grander view for every body. Well, let me first be critical terminology. Because when you talk about beams, beams are rays, this is what a beam is. What we can do and we have been able to do for 25 years, is take a group of antennas and have each of these antennas and focus on a point in space, and when you do that you end up with effectively a sphere of energy around the antenna of the unit that is receiving what these multiple antennas are doing.
More antennas you have the smaller the sphere is. Is that technology being used today? Well, in millimeter wave transmission 10, 20, 30, 60 gigahatz, 60 times more than that first cell phone could do. Yes, they use multiple antennas, but they use them for only one purpose, extend range. The range of 60 gigahatz antenna might be measured at a few yards but if you use a lot of antennas you could extend the range.
But that same technology, multiple antennas at lower frequencies can multiply the capacity of the spectrum. Why don't carriers use that today? You might ask. I do ask, why don't they use that today? Thank you for asking that.
They don't have a motivation to do it. Government allows the carriers to spend a lot of money to buy the right to use spectrum. They don't own the spectrum, but they've got a license to use spectrum and what they achieve by that is effectively a monopoly because other people can't use it. But the right way to run the spectrum is to make people use the existing spectrum, extract all the capacity they can and then move on to other frequencies. Martin, as I hear you tell these stories, I can't help but think that there is a special role for entrepreneur in society. Perhaps in engineering we like to think of an entrepreneur as someone who invents an interesting object that fulfills a need somewhere and that person goes blithely on and develops that and finds the money and finds the team.
But in our conversation we've had a number of touch points where you've implied that it was the entrepreneur who needed to upset an apple cart so that vested interests didn't hold back innovation. Can you explain a little bit more about that, can you give me some examples or elaborate on the need because this is something that I don't think many students would appreciate, would understand from the beginning that by being an entrepreneur, you are breaking up an ossified thing and putting back in some flexibility. Do you have some thoughts on that theme? Well, let me rephrase it a slightly different way than you did. There is one important understanding, and that is what is the purpose of technology? I have repeated this so many times it just flows out of my mouth.
Technology is the application of science to make products and services that make people's lives better. Somehow, if you forget the people part, the rest of it's irrelevant and yet big company start getting into a boat of they own the world, they are going to tell us what we need. Somehow, this is an opportunity for the entrepreneur.
It's the opportunity for every student that's listening to this. There are so many tools available to us today and so many things that have to be fixed even though the world is better now than it's ever been before. You know, we live longer, we have less disease now, there are less poverty there before we still got a long way to go. Huge number of opportunities, huge number of tools. But you have to remember that it's people that count.
Now look what happen with the cellphone, we gone out of control where every year there's a new announcement of a new feature that the cellphone has more pixels than your eyes have. [LAUGHTER] [OVERLAPPING] Exactly. So somehow or other, we now have the cell phone has evolved into a sub-optimal something. If you try to do, make a device that has all things for all people, it's not going to do any of them optimally. To me, that's opportunity. Every person that's alive today is different from other person.
Not only that every person alive today is different than anybody has ever lived before or ever will live. Yet the big manufacturers would like to make one product for everybody. There's not much advantage to that. After you've made a billion of something, a billion and 10 doesn't reduce the value. The future that I see, whether it's cell phone, everything else is personalization.
The cell phone ought to be an extension of your personality. Not with some engineers thinks that it ought to be. Martin, I've seen a pattern similar to this with the themes you've raised, I think I've seen this once before. So let's go back to the early days of the Internet. In fact, before the Internet existed and all there were, were private nets. You could register to be on IBM net.
You could register to be on ARPA net or HP net, et cetera. If you are on one, you couldn't talk to someone on the other. Then a process emerged. Some linking technology, the Internet technology came and broke those barriers down by providing a common hub among them. Then for a short period of time, and I remember when you use to spend yhe week to set up your desktop PC, most of it was you customizing it.
I want myself. What technology or what breakthrough or what new thing are you imagining might be the key to drive the industry in a direction that I think you're imagining and that I think a lot of other people would be happy to imagine as well with you? Those are two examples that I reveal that move in two different directions. When you're talking about the cell phone itself, the solution is certainly not having apps, because right now you can customize your phone. All you have to do is select among 4 million different apps.
You can pick out the right one for you, boy, you're better than I am. The solution that is just obvious, it has been obvious to me for a long time, but at the last few months, it's become a especially obvious. Every photo to have it artificial intelligence in it. Then artificial intelligence analyzes your behavior.
It optimizes your behavior because you are the human, you are the purpose of this thing. So when you want to do something repeatedly, it will either create an app for you or go find one, and you don't have to do that. So there's an example of how the photos can be personalized. But when you talk about the networks, we've gone too far in that direction. The Internet now tries to serve everybody.
Once again, it's doing this sub-optimally. Don't you think there ought to be at internet for students in the elementary and high schools. So you don't have to worry about the pornography part, yes somebody is going to have to curate this. But the Internet is going to be the source of information for all education. If that's the case, there won't be education on internet, there is already a lie in internet isn't there Alexis? Yes. So why not have multiple Internets once again to serve human needs? So I'll just saw a positive hypothesis which is perhaps we need an entrepreneur who is not going to be, let's say, a subservient to the vested interests who would want to drive such a thing into existence.
Do you think that model might be part of the solution? Opportunity. Bingo. Okay. Let me take a minute to go back to the actual first handheld cell phone call and ask a little bit more about it. You've already alluded to the fact that, Hey, we did this to have impact. We did this to send the message, not just what was on the phone, but to demonstrate what is possible to the world. It sounds like a water homework was done to set that up stage it, make it work right.
Would you expand on the logistics and all the planning that went into that? I'll start with the first piece, which is why did you choose the day that you chose as well as that person you were calling that you call. Well, we have to do a press conference. That's the way you get attention for a lot of people. We had to arrange a venue and the two venues we selected were New York and Washington because that's where the money is and where the political influences.
Furthermore, I keep talking about or everybody talks about the first phone call. Phone call is not just a handset, it takes infrastructure. We had to actually build a base station and a terminal remotely located from the Hilton Hotel, which is where our press conference was. This took a lot of effort. So the April 3rd date was arbitrary, but it was the date that we believed that we could put all of this stuff together and make it work.
Their key event on April 3rd with a press conference that we also had an interview in the afternoon by local TV station. All of those things are recorded fortunately, you will recognize me because I didn't have a beard. But I still talk like that. But I was wakened up in the morning by our press people and they said there's reporter would like to interview you. I said that's fine, I'm available. But I want to do that at every other street.
This business, of standing up in front of a group or sitting in a chair and demonstrating a phone does not demonstrate the freedom part. There, I end up standing on the street walking down Sixth Avenue, talking on this phone. "People, you don't have a Plaza in New York sir." Their eyes were wide open [LAUGHTER] looking at this because there were no cordless phones back in that day.
Even the plaza in New York were watching this. Now I have to demonstrate that this thing was actually working. Which of course is the only thing that our mind there we had been the night before, we had still tweaking this thing to make sure that it was working right. I decided, you know what, I think I'm going to call my counterpart AT&T, The guy that is running the car telephone program at AT&T. So I reached in my pocket and took out by telephone book. [LAUGHTER] little black book literally? It was literally, tells you a little bit about the primitive times we were in.
I called up Joel Engel, Dr. Joel Engel and I said, "Joel, This is Martin Cooper" and he said "Hi Martin. I'm Joel, I'm calling you on a cell phone, but a real cell phone, a personal portable, handheld cellphone." You could see I was not adverse to Rebecca's knows that Joel was very polite even to this day he doesn't dispute that we've made that phone call.
He doesn't remember the call, but I guess I don't blame him for that. But Joel's attitude was the Bell system was dominant. They ran everything. He could not understand what this little company in Chicago was doing. Literally could not enter his mind that we could influence the direction of history. But he was wrong.
Sir Marty, you told a lot of interesting stories about the origins of the first handheld cell phone phone call and all the excitement around it. But I think many in our audience who would like to know. How far down the road were you looking when you staged that first big demonstration? Did you ever envision that something the size of a brick could become something the size of a very small parcel or something the size of a brick with 25 min of battery life would become something that has two days of battery life. How far down the road were you looking when all of that was happening? At the very profound questions? Well, it turns out that a bigger dreamer is important to be an aftermath of the important. You do have to understand the technology. In fact, in my previous career, I started a battery business for Motorola.
So I understood that the battery technology was advancing. That someday it would be possible to make a battery this big, that was equivalent to the battery on this phone, which was that big. So when you're actually making a demonstration of the product, you really do have to understand the technology. I really had to do and what the capabilities of large scale integrated circuits were. Believe me, that was even then it was not a simple thing, because I had experts in the semiconductor industry telling me that they had a pitch of one micron. The smallest dimension you could have, that they were very good and very close to the limit.
[LAUGHTER] We're not going to be able to go much more dense then. Well, as you know, they're now talking about nanometer, 1,000 times better, which is a million times smaller in area than they had when this guy who was an expert. So there is a combination of being a dreamer and really understanding factually what the future could bring us. There is a balance there, and how do you get that balance? I don't know, but one thing is understanding about humanity, the other thing is understanding about emotion so everybody has got their own way of doing it. So there's lots of wonderful messages in the telling of that story. One of them I want to start exploring was triggered when you said even blah Zai New Yorkers paid attention.
Because I think in that era, if you walk down the street and talk to yourself, they thought you were crazy. Today, "Oh, what a wonderful person multiplexing, multitasking." How does all of these, how do all of these technological advancements really change who we are as people? What does it mean for the young people in the future? For the young people who have never known anything but this hyper-connectivity? What are the advantages and disadvantages? The pros and the cons? What are your thoughts about what we've made possible and where it might be taking us? Well, let me take the driver's approach to start with the ability to connect people full-time, 100% of the time so they have the freedom to be everywhere. Number 1 is going to revolutionize education.
Since you're a professional in that area, just to think about what's going on today. That we have teachers lecturing to students, each of whom has access to all the information of the world. Thirdly, there's got to be a more effective way of delivering facts to people and telling them things that they know more than the teacher.
So we're going to learn how to do that, but the teaching professor is going to change. Let's talk about healthcare. I have an annual physical examination, sometimes every year, sometimes every five years, and it's essentially worthless. Diseases don't wait for your examination to happen.
They happen on the fly. Think about the fact, if you have sensors on your body or all knowing sensor that knows when you're about to have a stroke, and by the way, we have such a sensor today, you can anticipate disease. Your body is full of batteries that, why are you not sick all the time? Because you've got an immune system that captures those things, stops them. Well, why not have a sensor that senses that you're about to start, that your immune system has lost control, take a pill, talk to your doctor, no disease.
Think about that. A world with no disease. Cancer, you've got a few cancer cells come up, Zappa them. So the concept of collaboration. Think about how when Einstein came up with his theory of relativity, he would write a paper and send it to his pal Niels Bohr that took a couple of weeks of the mail and would think about it for a week or two, send it back.
The conversation took months. You pick up your phone down, go, "Hey, I got this idea. What do you think of it?" That way, okay, about the increase in pace that's happened. Safety, my grandchildren have had cell phones from the age of five years old. You say, "Oh boy, that's really bad. They're going to become addicts."
Yeah, but there'll be live addicts because [LAUGHTER] when they were standing out and wait against the school for their parents to come and their parents were late, they could always have the phone and call somebody for help. So we're all at the very beginning of what the concept of a cell phone ridiculous that we call it a phone, isn't it? Yeah. What the concept of being connected is going to do for humanity.
We are going to be a very different people. I have to emphasize that because the usual way you really got to the heart of it, the people of the future are going to be very different than we are. They're going to be smarter, they're going to have a shorter attention span, but hopefully, it's going to be a better world. So Marty, thank you. I want to tease out three things from your answer because you really got my head spinning. The first is, you mentioned, I think your phrase was, how does a teacher teach to students who might know more than they do? Well, I just happened to run this school of engineering.
[LAUGHTER] It just happens to be the fifth or the sixth biggest in the country. Just happens to have 9,600 students. So you're making me feel a little queasy. It's like, Hey, wait a second. I have a big machine that is about the be disrupted.
There's a change coming. Have you thought about, so imagine a scenario. I'll hire you as an digital education consultant, do you have a couple of thoughts about the advice that you would give me? "Hey Al, next year, your students are different, and this is what you have to do about it." Have you thought about that? Well, of course your biggest problem is managing the faculty. That's a [LAUGHTER] whole new problem.
But the whole nature of what a teacher is is going to change it in the future. Maybe teachers will be more efficient, but the main role of the teacher is to stimulate the students and teach them how to use the tools. How to teach them how to discriminate between real stuff and bad stuff, and to do this in a way that doesn't intrude other shortened attention span.
Because I don't think of a modern person, I'd like to think of myself as a modern person, but in my day, I had to listen to one-hour lectures, I don't think you can do a one-hour lecture today. Teachers are going to have to adapt. They're going to have to learn new ways of teaching, and the whole concept of what teaching is is going to change.
If you know, Socrates had his own version of teaching and did pretty well at that, and maybe that is the road. We know indeed the concept of a teacher redirecting with students, but I think that interaction is a lot more important than the lecturing. Having said that, I'm just a dreamer. You're the guy that has got to implement this. Yes. Wow. Let's just say it's my goal not to play the part of Bell Labs or AT&T in the story when I have entrepreneur [OVERLAPPING] I know you're going to adapt, and you're going to be one of a problem-solver.
Thanks, but let's say the jury is still out on that one. The other big theme that you really stimulated in my mind when you gave your answer about the effect of the phones on the future, really was digital health. I really did resonate with what if you knew what you needed to know in time so that you could implement an intervention to take care of someone's health. You know that a stroke might be occurring, or you know that there may be some other problem, or you now that someone just got sick with the flu and you need to do something. Let me explore that from two angles and I'm curious to hear what you're saying.
The first is there is a growing number of sensors. You can buy a ring you wear, you buy a wrist you wear, there are stick on sensors that look like fancy high-tech band-aids that are going to start collecting all this data. The two thoughts are one, is there a security issue now that there is a digital aura surrounding our bodies? All these sensors are low-power sensors.
They're designed to transmit the answer no more than a meter because that's as far away as you can hold your cell phone. So all of a sudden if you're within a meter of someone, you might be leaking data. Then the second is to a generation of doctors who look at patients with a snapshot mentality. Here's a chart, there's the snapshot, this looks good at the moment, you're fine. So trend data is typically not so emphasized there.
What revolution in the doctor's mind do you think we're going to need? So the first one was everyone has a digital aura, how do you protect that? The second one is okay, so what are the doctors going to do about that? Well, let's start with the doctors. I've already offended all the teachers of the world. I basically will take out the doctors too. [LAUGHTER] But think of what doctors do, they diagnose and then they try to cure you. In the world that I perceive there are no diseases to cure. Disease are well being anticipated.
So you're still going to need surgeons, or you're still going to need the really complicated kinds of diagnosis. So the doctors still have a role, but it's a very different one than they have today. Much more efficient.
So hopefully will need fewer doctors, but guys who are much more specialists in the pretty complicated stuff. Let's go on to the issue of what the London Times that had their interview will be last week privacy. Do we have privacy now? Really anybody who thinks that they think that their life is private is kidding themselves, and that's not acceptable. We have to learn how to handle that.
You know that there are ways of doing it. If you've got sensors in your body, there has got to be a way to encrypt that information. Even though it's only going a few feet, you know that somebody could intercept that. If going on over here sooner or later, the cell phone, I think, is ultimately going to evolve into something that you carry with you that we call a server. That's what reaches the rest of the world. Then on your body you've got an implant next to your ear that we will call the phone with a powerful computer in it.
If I want to talk to you, I actually go, get Al on the phone and a computer says, which Al do you want to call, and I say Al Pisano, and I'm talking to you. The whole concept of the way we do all these things is now changing. We've got a bunch of sensors on the body and all these things feed the server and the server connects us to the outside world. That's my perception of what the future cellphones are going to be like. Marty, we've been having a wonderful conversation in many different directions. I want to try it yet one more new direction out with you.
That is to take some questions from the students of the Jacobs School of Engineering who knew we were having this conversation today and who submitted some questions. Let me try one out on you. A former a student in electrical and computer engineering , so electrical engineering. Dr. Cooper, how do you figure out a new technological trend or breakthrough? How do you see what that is? What advice can you offer for a student to be able to understand the market adoption of the yet to be realized technologies.
A question about how do you see the trends to know what to do and how do you do something when no one's ever done it before? A spectacular question from a student. Marty, what's your advice? Well, first of all, I'm not qualified to give advice to all students, but I can tell you what my experience is in this regard. The first thing you have to learn how to do when you want to come up with a product or a service for other people, and remember that they are humans and you have to put yourself in their role, immerse yourself in their role, really understand it. I have to tell you, when I look back on my career, where people keeps pretending that making the cell phone was the end of my career which I would like to think [LAUGHTER] was just the beginning. There were a number of steps in that thing, each of which made me understand more of what the concept was. I came up with the very first, would you believe that car telephones, when there were not lots of car telephones.
It was a very successful product. But that's what I realized that when we learned how to do things small, that big, trapped in the car wasn't very effective. It took me 15 years to really understand the idea of the freedom of having a phone that you could carry with you. Aversion is crucial. You cannot pretend that you know what other people do unless you live what they are doing. It's error good to think you could go otherwise.
But I have to emphasize what I said previously. You also have to prepare to take risks. You have to understand the meaning of the word strategy. If you don't do something better than your competitor, and there are always competitors, and then you don't deserve to start a business. Related to this, another student has posed a question, again, from electrical and computer engineering.
I think this is a very human question. How did you manage to keep yourself motivated when you were starting a business or pushing forward a new technology? Perhaps you had a negative thought on potential failure. How did you personally deal with those? I will interpret this as, how did you get your human emotional strength that enabled you to push through in the face of uncertainties or all these other issues that you've been pointing out? The student wants to know, what box did it come in, Marty, can you give him one? No, I'm just teasing. You have to be a psychologist to figure all of that out.
But first of all, I am an optimist. Second of all, I'm a dreamer. If you have a dream, that dream has got to be overwhelming. It's got to be something that you really look forward to.
Then secondly, you have to believe what Paul Galvin thought. That is that you cannot fear failure. Of course, everybody has doubts. In fact, those doubts are very important , skeptics are important. You have to challenge yourself continually, you have to be paranoid but being paranoid doesn't mean you're afraid to take a risk. I have a large engineering school in which I have hundreds of students, thousands of students studying the technology.
What I'm hearing from your answer is that there is a way to combine your technical expertise with your hopes, dreams, and empathies for the rest of the humans on the planet. You had your particular way to combine it. I'm wondering if there must be other ways to combine it.
Did you just have any closing thoughts on what we could do in an engineering school to make it easier for students to hold onto their dreams, and get the technological strength that they need so that they find their way to walk the path of their dream? There's nothing more exciting, more valuable than having an idea, and executing the idea, and making it happen, and seeing the results. Why in our educational systems we say, well, when you get out of the real-world, you could do that, but meanwhile, you just have to work hard and take chance. Why can't we let our students experience that excitement of having an idea for the first time, executing the idea, seeing the results of your thing, having passion. Because boy, that's what keeps me going. If you haven't figured that out by now, it's the passion of looking at a future that's better than today, and knowing that I had an idea that maybe somebody else didn't have. But at least for me, it was the first time I had that idea.
It is just so exciting and it makes me feel wonderful. If you can get your students to feel that at some part, doesn't have to be all the time, but if they could reach that at some point during their education, they will be all the stronger when they get into the real-world. One final thought related to that. Every school, mine included, struggles to have an experiential side of the curriculum.
It's expensive, you have to buy hardware. It takes up more space, you have to equip a lab. You have to gather people and set rules for safety in lab standards and stuff like that.
But when the students make something that works, their eyes light up. This sounds like that was functioning within you. I can imagine you extremely excited the day that you're making the first handheld cell phone call from the streets of New York, even if you'd planned it out. You must have been glowing when you did it.
Yes? If I could capture that energy or set up a scenario for the students to feel the energy that you were feeling then, am I succeeding at my job? Of course. But let me give you an example of how that's done at a much different level because I have a protege. I met a young man, five-and-a-half years old at a swimming pool last week. I was giving a speech in this hotel and he approached me and said, are you a teacher? I said, well, no, I'm an inventor. He says, I'd like to be an inventor. That was seven years ago.
He's my friend, Sebastian, he's now 12 years old. In his class at school, they have told each of those students start a business all by yourself and do as much as you can to actually go from the idea to commercial. I don't want to embarrass him.
His name is Stokoe. He thought you'd know the word stoked has energy to it. I'm going to make t-shirts with the word stoked on the back.
He happens to be an enormous artistic talent. He made a graphic that's very colorful and things that goes on. He went into the t-shirt business with his strategy that the word stoked has meaning to it.
I just got a report from him the other day that he is now profitable. He bought a bunch of t-shirts. He bought a machine that will print his stuff out, because it turns out that when he wanted to outsource, then they will charge him too much money. That's a stupid example it seems. But here are these teachers to figure it out.
There must be a way that you would have a course that embraces all of those silos, including business, including risk. I don't know if that's useful, but it's an example. Marty, I see you're wearing a National Academy of Engineering pin. I'm presuming you're proud to be a member of the American National Academy of Engineering. Tell me a little bit about the role you've had there, the interaction you've had there, and how you might be helping them adapt to the future or what the academicians role would be.
It's another aspect of your life that I think many people might not know so much about. Well, the essence of what you're going to do when you get older, you certainly can't keep up with all the technology. Try as I might, things are just getting beyond me. We had Carver Mead speaking to us last week. I did get out of it that he thinks Einstein was wrong.
I'm not sure I know exactly why. But the one thing that doesn't change is your neurons do not fade away like the rest of your body does. The one important thing that happened when you get older are the ideas and the National Academy does. I've also a member of the technological Advisory Council for the FCC.
The exchange of ideas is attacking the real fundamentals. I could talk to people about a future. We don't have carriers delivering information inefficiently, and while somewhere out there, there is a monster artificial intelligence that's organizing all of our radio transmissions, doing it officially, and doing it a million times more effectively today. That's the role that the National Academy of Engineering Sciences, medicine does, they allow people to interact, experts in their field, to exchange information which they now do very efficiently. It also gives a role for people that are beyond the stage of just fixing immediate problems.
Let me bridge from there into a related topic, which is, as the world of wireless encompasses more technology, more purposes, as the impact grows. I'm wondering what you think about the need for a surge in international cooperation in this field. We have a standard setting board, which to me looks more and more like a battleground everyone has after they've developed their pet idea and then everyone convenience to see which ideas survived the standard setting process. I'm wondering what you think about the need for more pre collaboration before that point. Or am I going in the wrong direction here? I'm asking you, how do you see this field growing with more and more international participants and how is that going to be arranged or evolve on its own? I think we're all screwed up.
[LAUGHTER] Present company excluded. All the rest of them, but not you and me. Let me start out with one comment. I hate war. If there's anything that is antithetical to the whole concept of engineering, it is war.
Engineering is constructing, making lives better, war destroys lives. There is something wrong with that picture. You're down in the weeds where stuff gets done, but somehow or other we don't cooperate. I told understand that.
My only solution to that is that we keep touching on the concept of education. There was no doubt in my mind that my children are smarter than I am and my grandchildren are geniuses, and my great grandchildren are not old enough to be genius, but they've grown to be smarter than their parents. It's my hope that intelligence is going to solve that problem because it's irrational. The standards things are irrational. There are places where standards are very important, but there are other places where standards get in the way of progress. There's a thing about the Europeans are now telling Apple you should not use lightning thing because you've got another one that you ought to be universal.
When my reaction is we need to connect it all, can't there be something else? I want to see progress and yes, I don't want to have every single unit require a different power supply. But there is a balance. We haven't learned how to hold those Congresses. One of the problems is, you look at our Congress and how many engineers are there in Congress? Maybe we ought to have, I don't believe in silos. I don't like the engineering silo. I would like silo of, if you'll forgive me for saying this because it's controversial here at UCSD.
But design is a really overweening thing, design in the concept of what's the optimal way that you put things together? I don't think the we have future engineers, and I'm certain the way that you are doing things now is you're trying to get engineers to have multiple talents. But the idea of somebody going out into the real-world as electrical engineering as I did and think that they can make a product with all the electrical engineering, that's ludicrous. We need us to stop thinking in boxes, stop thinking in silos, thinking about humanity, about solving the problems of humanity, until we get it away that nationalism is not bad, but nationalism that starts wars, nationalism that bakes standards, a matter of pride and ego. All those things are stupid. Maybe I'm being too much will-driven, but I'm hoping that the cell phone will eliminate stupidity, how about that word objective? Marty, I have to say, if I had to pick a formal stopping point for an interview, that is a spectacular quote to end on. Perhaps the cell phone will eliminate stupidity.
Marty, I want to thank you very much for being with me today and having this wonderful conversation. I not only learned a lot, but I got very excited about the thoughts and visions you offered. Thank you very much. I want to thank everyone who listened in. I hope that all of you enjoyed this conversation as much as we did. Thank you very much.