≡ Menu

Noted in Passing: The First Car Phone and the First Tesla

Du Mont engineer James A. Craig demonstrates a simple dialing procedure on a completely automatic “dial-direct” mobile two-way radiotelephone system in Clifton, New Jersey, on March 28, 1957. The system, presently used by the Richmond Radiotelephone Service, Inc., is manufactured by Allen B. Du Mont Laboratories, Inc., is the first radiotelephone equipment to allow phone calls to and from vehicles to be relayed completely unattended through local telephone companies.

PLUS: The First Tesla

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), naturalized American physicist, sitting in his Colorado Springs laboratory with his “magnifying transmitter” in 1899

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • John Venlet September 16, 2022, 11:20 AM

    The rotary dial on that first car phone is a nice touch. Ha! My first car phone, which I picked up in 1991 or 1992, came packaged in what you could call a small suitcase. It didn’t have a rotary dial, but it was about the size of what I see in the photo. I wonder if Nikolai Tesla, if he would’ve lived longer, would have provided electrical inventions more revolutionary than what is currently available to us?

  • Roy Lofquist September 16, 2022, 1:18 PM

    So I went to the phone store and asked the kid at the counter if they had a rotary model. He didn’t get it.

    • Rob De Witt September 16, 2022, 2:23 PM

      Sometime in the latter ’90s a neighbor sent her probably-25-year-old guest over to my place to ask to borrow my phone. Apparently hers was turned off, or something, I forget.

      Anyhow I directed the kid to the (rotary) phone next to my bed while I continued working in the front room. After a long silence I went in to find him staring, almost in tears, at the phone – which was apparently too much for him.

      I dunno. I’m closing in on 80 and I don’t remember ever being that helpless in the face of everyday technology.

  • ghostsniper September 16, 2022, 1:44 PM

    I never had a car phone but I had a Motorola cellphone in 1994 and it was called a brick. I think I paid $800 for it and about $150/mth for the cell service. Couple years later I got a Sony that was much better all around and the service was less than $100/mth. Haven’t had a landline since 2002.

    • ThisIsNotNutella September 16, 2022, 9:02 PM

      Got my first cellphone in 1994 too (Nokia 2110). Must have cost close to $1500 and for $100/month I got a whole 60 minutes of talk time — which was about all the standard battery was good for anyway, if that. Good old days.

      I didn’t have any real commercial use-case or justification for it. Pure covetousness and a young guy’s lust for status symbols and other such nonsense. You lived in Hong Kong at that time and wanted to pull, at the very least you needed to have a cellphone and a fax machine at home. Email was for nerds. I kept quiet about my Internet habit.

      Can still remember how exciting and downright space-age it felt to make calls on it for the first little while. By the year 2000, pretty much everyone’s Filipina maid had a cellphone, too.

  • Anonymous September 16, 2022, 8:41 PM