The First Cell Phone Call

Wow. So, get this Mooonmemory from 38 years ago.

On October 13, 1983, I called my Mom from the back seat of a black limousine cruising southbound on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. I was 29 years old, working for UPI, and covering a BIG business story – the inaugural day of commercial cellular phone service, being offered by Ameritech (formerly Ma Bell).

She wasn’t all that impressed, but allow me to believe that I detected a bit of lift in her voice knowing that of all people, I chose her as the object of my first cellphone call. It wouldn’t be the last. She even learned how to use one before she passed from this world, bless her.

No, I don’t have a copy of the story that I filed. Sadly, a good deal of my work-related memorabilia was “misplaced” in a 2010 relocation. C’est la vie.

But enjoy this photo of the plaque each media participant received on that special day. An actual wooden plaque. I kept it for decades, but finally decided that it had to go, took a scan and, adios clutter.

There’s not much else to the story. When “enterprise” assignments (stories plucked from the press release file, aka, not real news) were solicited that day, I raised my hand, suspecting that the Ameritech dog-and-pony show, which departed from a Soldier Field parking lot, just might be something to tell the kids about someday. And so it is.

Thirty-eight years. Doesn’t seem like a long time. Yet this is all to say that most of us “baby boomers” vividly recall a time when mobile telecommunication was NOT considered an entitled commodity, like water and Netflix. And with this momentous event, mobile connection was in fact coming to an end as something that existed only for the rich and powerful.

There are no words to describe how much I coveted a device like Dick Tracy’s “two-way wrist radio,” and even though it originally manifest as a clunky, shoe-box sized utensil sitting on the seat of fancy limousine, it was a palpable portend of the digital world in which we live today.

Published by billpaige

Interested parties are first directed to my memoir, “Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars” (Eckhartz Press). While I have taken music therapy classes and read extensively about music’s effect on the brain, I am NOT professionally trained -- just a music lover who recognizes that everyone benefits from music. Giving that gift to special needs youth is highly rewarding, but again, my process is intuitive, not academic. I draw largely on personal experience. I’ve spent most of my 67 years observing a wide world of music, from working as a music critic professionally for 20 years, and holding positions in music companies in the 1970s and 1990s. Since 1990, however, I have focused on learning more about music and improving as a singer, guitarist, and performer, both solo and in ensemble settings.

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