21st June 1998
The man behind the screen
In the history of telephones, Martin Cooper's name should come right after Alexander Graham Bell's.
In 1973, Mr. Cooper, who led a research and development team at Motorola, invented the first mobile phone, the Dyna T-a-c, to free people from being desk bound.
At first, people laughed at the idea. The design of the set did not help.
"It looked like a brick and weighed over a kilo," he said while in Singapore for CommunicAsia 98.
That gadget has since become a worldwide phenomenon. There are about 200 million cellular phone users in the world. Experts estimate that a new subscriber is signed up every second.
"Cell phones are very expensive, the service is very expensive and the quality is still not as good as a land line," he said.
Still, he owns four hand sets, one for each of the three cars he shares with his wife, and an Amps. (Advanced Mobile Phone Service) handset.
The Amps set is the one he carries with him most of the time because it gives him the widest service in the United States and because it is so small and light.
After almost 30 years at Motorola, he left in 1983 to start his own business.
"Everybody was building cellular systems, but nobody was considering how to manage them and how to bill people," he explained.
He started a company called Cellular Business Systems. By the time he sold it to telephone operator Cincinnati Bell, it was providing 75 per cent of telephone operators in the United States with billing software.
But he did not stop there. He founded yet another company, ArrayComm, in 1992, when he was 63.
Its main product was concerned with management.
But instead of managing bills, ArrayComm introduced a product - Intelli-Cell - that would manage the radio spectrum more efficiently by locating individual subscribers and then transmitting energy directly aimed at them. This is unlike regular cellular systems, where energy is transmitted in all directions before a user is identified.
He is also promoting heavily what many believe to be a dead system, the Personal Handyphone System (PHS). But he sticks up for it because it is cheap, carries voices clearly and its battery lasts a whole month..
"Some PHS sets sell for as low as 100 yen (S$1.20) in Japan, " he said, and some are half the size of a man's palm, he added.
Ten years from now, he predicted, there will be no more buttons on telephones, and subscribers will "dial"with voice commands.
"When that happens, the only limitation on the size of the phone is what's convenient for you to carry," he said.
"Twenty-five years from now," he ventured, "the phone may be embedded behind your ear or under your skin and get its power from your body, so you won't ever have to worry about battery life."
At 69, when many have retired, he continues to jet in and out of San Diego, where he lives, on lightning trips to address industry leaders and attend conferences. And he has no plans to stop.
Will he ever really retire?
He said: "It's like asking a smoker if he's quit. He'd probably say he's quit several times."
He pauses for effect, then admits with a laugh: "I've tried to quit several times."
My darling daughter,
'June is the month of love' warbled one of the recent popular pop singers (these singers are in and out of favour that I scarcely remember their names!). I normally don't listen to modern songs but hearing this young singer I thought 'well for once the younger generation's heart throbs are saying something of relevance!
June really is a month that celebrates love. We see the media showing young couples pledging eternal love, beautiful brides and candle-lit dinners romantic songs and sentimental thoughts surrounding the month of June with all the images of love. Yet watching the media glamorizing love and equating it to beauty and pleasure, I wondered doesn't love mean much more that passion, desire and pleasure. Has love lost that ability to give and sacrifice for the happiness of another? I thought, daughter, that by glamorizing the concept of love and covering it with red roses and gold wrappings, a kind of euphoria that love is a magic formula and that everything just happens right if one is in love has been created.
Unfortunately the reality is so different. To love one needs courage for the red roses given do fade and their petals drop. It needs courage to show another your deepest feelings and thereby open yourself to hurt. When you let another enter your world you become vulnerable and to do so requires courage. Then again love needs that you be ready to be faithful to the commitments you make. You are responsible for the happiness of another. You have to learn to accept and understand another, not try to change or jealously guard each moment with possessiveness. You have to let go and that too needs courage. The greatest gift that love can give to another is to let that person be free to be true to his own self: You have to accept the other on his own terms not yours and not in the mistaken belief that you can change the other's way of looking at things. If you really love, you must maintain your separateness 'like the strings of a violin resonating individually in order to resonate in harmony' you must live your lives as individuals and yet as a couple — that again is difficult and needs courage especially when often you think your way is right!
Two individuals marry to find happiness in living together, joining hands to create a home where each one is respected and accepted. Daughter, love is not a magic formula for living happily ever after. A lot of self-denial and understanding is needed. But with the glamour stories one hears the poor starry-eyed bride of yesterday wonders 'Is marriage only attending to mundane matters like cooking and keeping a house, and the young bridegroom tired after work wonders whether the peevish wife who greets him is the wonderful girl who promised to love him in good times and bad.
Daughter,I would like to share my thoughts with you of what I think love means. You may disagree for you are of a liberated generation, but yet some thing of what I write may remain so that when you fall in love you will wonder, "Do I have the courage to Love"?
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