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Innovators through history: Martin Hooper

Innovators through history: Martin Hooper

To mark the launch of the NZ Innovators Awards for 2012, we're celebrating a series of vaunted innovators and inventors throughout time.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Ben Schumin/Zach Vega

What: Portable mobile handset aka the cell phone

When:  1973 was the year Dr Martin Cooper of Motorola made the first cell phone call to his rival John Engel of Bell Laboratories.

Impact: The cell phone is second only to the internet when ranking communication advances in the digital era. Now, with smartphones raising their IQ levels with each release, the two are practically joined at the hip. Technology improvements racing to the market are much faster now than in the invention's early years. Despite incredible demand, it took cellular phone service and infrastructure took years to catch up with the handset. Consumer demand for the 1980s brick devices seen in Wall St quickly outstripped the 1982 system standards. By 1987, cellular telephone subscribers exceeded one million and the airways were crowded.

Power, Fame and Money:  The annoying phrase “commercial sensitivity” quashed attempts to confirm the exact number of digits on Hooper's fat paycheque following his team’s communication innovation. Hopefully it was enough to cover the fact that he is quite forgettable, part of a trend where companies and brands, rather than people, are the inventors of technology. The Doctor seemed more content with beating his archrival at Bell than having a tribute ringtone or faceplate anyway.

Legacy: The annoyingly loud iPhone user revealing their evening plans and intimate relationship details on the bus, train or supermarket queue can yak away for hours, thanks in part to Hooper’s mobile handset.

Created a killer smartphone app? Or duked it out and won against your innovation rivals? Add salt to the wound with a trophy on the mantelpiece. Don’t let our call to enter you and your company in the NZ Innovator Awards go straight to voicemail. Entries in the New Zealand Innovators Awards are now open.