30 Years Ago, The First Cellphone of the World went on Sale for $4,000
According to the experts, it was either in Chicago, Baltimore or Washington that someone spent $3,995 in order to purchase the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. It was purchased on March 13, 1984 by someone unknown.
At the time, when someone bought this phone, there was simply no great buzz regarding the news. In 1984, “cellphone” and “mobile phone” were terms that did not relate to handheld phones. A handheld phone was something for people to show off in the society. Only a rich person could afford a handheld phone at the time.
It measured 13*1.75*3.5 inches and weighed 28 ounces. The handheld received the nickname “The Brick” because of its massive structure. If we consider recession, the cost of the handheld would be adjusted to $9,000. Can you imagine paying $9,000 for a handheld now?
According to Rudy Krolopp, “The first [phones] we made were a research product. The DynaTAC wasn’t designed to be manufactured and mass produced. Plus, the FCC was giving us all kinds of problems, so to design something we could manufacture sucked up 10 years. We were very busy.”
According to Krolopp, DynaTAC went through eight different iterations. He recalled, “Each time we had a problem and solved it, we had to change the design.”
Motorola had made an investment of $100 million for developing the 8000X. However, the company wasn’t sure if the public would accept the handheld or not.
Motorola had made an investment of $100 million for developing the 8000X
On March 6, 1983, Motorola officially revealed the DynaTAC 8000X handheld but the FCC didn’t approve the phone before seven months. Ameritech came out with its first commercial cellular service in the US that cost $50 a month plus 40 cents a minute from the time slow of 9 am to 5 pm, 24 cents a minute off peak. After two months, Cellular One released its Motorola-designed DynaTAC network in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.
Before the release of 8000X, the world was only using car phones that cost $2,500 at the time. According to Ameritech’s VP of marketing and sales, who also serves as the CEO of medical device maker Myomo, “We thought sales [of the DynaTAC 8000X] would be modest. Our market research on price point indicated buyers would be a select group of entrepreneurs, doctors, real estate agents, construction company owners and large company executives.”
As many as 12,000 cellular phones were sold by Ameritech in its first year since inception. 10 percent of all these cellular phones were the DynaTAC 8000X. The handheld, according to Motorola was a huge success for the company. Krolopp said, “We didn’t design them for teenagers — well, unless it was a teenager with $4,000. But we couldn’t build them fast enough. Businesses started taking them on and it became something else, a part of business — not a convenience, but a necessity. We didn’t expect those kinds of volumes.”
It is interesting to note that car phones that were considered to be the primary product of cellphones have disappeared totally from the scene. The replacement of car phones has been done by the decedents of the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X.