Cell phones today have almost every feature most people could want or need. You can bank, shop, or watch movies from your phone and even use dictation to avoid having to type on a tiny keyboard. And, though many people use this function less often these days- you can of course talk on them. In the early days of mobile phones talking was the only feature available, but what a step it was. Not long after the first cordless phones were commercially available in 1980 the first cell phone tower in the US went up in 1983. But, in the UK during the late 1970s a series of prototypes for the new fangled concept were in the works. And, they came with quite a few quirks.

1970s test cell phone
Via: BBC/YouTube

One of the strangest things to see today was that some of these prototypes looked much like the top half of a regular phone with a cord that attached to a transmitter. This 2-part system, though transportable, was a far cry from the compact and easy-to-use smart phones were have to today.

With no cradle with which to “hang up” the phone early prototypes relied on a special signal button one had to use in order to end the call. This was because the radio tower would need to know when the call had ended to avoid “wasting” airwave time.

cell phone towers in Utah
Via: Nils Rasmusson/Unsplash

Another quirky thing about the prototypes was the incredibly short battery life. One such model tested by Michael Rodd for a 1979 episode of the science and gadget show, Tomorrow’s World, on the BBC only had 6 minutes of talk time on the battery. It wasn’t until years later that more efficient batteries would allow for the smaller phones we use today that have days of use on a full charge.

Other clunky things about this model were that the user would have to hang up and re-start dialing if it took more than 20 seconds to dial. If you were on a call this phone would cut you off after only 3 minutes as the signals didn’t allow for more talk time. It’s a good thing we don’t have to use our phones under these parameters today!

See this dinosaur of a cell phone at work in the video below.

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