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Intelligent Machines

The Evolution of Motorola’s Wireless Technology

The company that Google plans to buy has demonstrated many “firsts” throughout the past century.


1930 First Motorola brand car radio (reproduction), model 5T71

With this week’s announcement of Google’s plan to buy Motorola Mobility, we took a look at the significant technology milestones in the company’s history. Motorola, founded in 1928 as the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, was pivotal in advancing communications from business to space and government. Achievements included everything from releasing the world’s first commercial handheld cellular phone to introducing one of the first commercially successful car radios in 1930, reproduced above.

This radio was the first product to carry the Motorola brand. It was designed to be mass-produced, affordable, and easily installed. The components, as shown in this reproduction, included (left to right) radio receiver, tuning control, and speaker.


circa 1940 Handie-Talkie SCR536 portable two-way radio

In 1940, Galvin Manufacturing Corporation (later Motorola) engineers developed the Handie-Talkie SCR536 AM portable two-way radio.  This handheld radio became an icon on World War II battlefronts.


1943 Illustration of U.S. soldiers using Motorola SCR300 backpack FM portable two-way radio

In 1943 Galvin Manufacturing Corporation (later Motorola) designed the world’s first FM portable two-way radio, the SCR300 backpack model, for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Weighing 15.9 kilograms (35 pounds), the “walkie-talkie” radio had a range of 16–32 kilometers (10–20 miles).


circa 1969 “Motorola was there” space program poster

Motorola supplied many types of radio communications equipment to American space programs in the 1960s and 1970s. Motorola equipment transmitted the first words from the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.


1983  DynaTAC 8000X

The prototype DynaTAC (for “DYNamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage”) portable radiotelephone cellular system was demonstrated in 1973 by Motorola. It received FCC approval in 1983, and a year later the commercial version, the 8000x, became the first handheld cellular phone available to consumers. The DynaTAC technology was also used for the first vehicular speaker phone (VSP), or hands-free car phone, released in 1983.


1989 MicroTAC Personal Cellular Telephone

When the MicroTAC phone came out, it was the smallest, lightest model on the market.


1995 Motorola Tango two-way personal messaging pager (image taken in 2005)

In 1995 Motorola introduced the world’s first two-way pager, the Tango two-way personal messaging pager. It allowed users to receive text messages and email, and reply with a standard response. It also could be connected to a computer to download long messages.


1996 StarTAC Wearable Phone

At just over 85 grams (three ounces), this wearable cellular phone was the smallest and lightest available in the world at the time.


1998 Motorola iDEN portable handset, model i1000

The i1000 portable radio handset used Motorola’s iDEN public network technology, which combined two-way radio, telephone, text messaging, and data transmission. IDEN radio handsets were intended for mobile work groups.


2004 MOTORAZR V3 Cellular Phone

Hugely popular, Motorola’s RAZR phones were thin, metallic flip phones. Version 3 used aircraft-grade aluminum to offer a nickel-plated keyboard and roughly 14 mm (0.55 inches) thickness.


2009 Motorola Droid

The first serious competitor to Apple’s iPhone, the Android-based Droid offered multitasking along with other smart-phone capabilities such as Web browsing and GPS navigation.

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