PCB007 Magazine

PCB-May2018

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14 PCB007 MAGAZINE I MAY 2018 put my name on the list for a mobile connec- tion in the Washington, D.C. area where I lived at the time; the waiting list was so long there was a list to get on the list and the cost to use such a device was astronomical. I did have a ham radio license, but that was a hobby and you could only communicate with others who were ham radio operators. CB was similar, but much shorter range due to lower power and limited transmission frequencies. I ended up doing what many who need- ed to have some level of mobile communica- tions did at the time and that was get a pager or beeper (Figure 1). You had this small pag- ing device and if your family or of- fice needed you they would call a phone number and beep you and you would find a pay phone and call them to see what was up. Eventually, the pag- ing device allowed you to re- ceive a short text message but still only offered very limit- ed communication options. Things improved over the next few decades. Compa- nies such as Motorola entered the arena and the full duplex voice (no pushing a mic button to speak) and cellular hand-off from tower to tower system was born. The first true cellular networks or first gen- eration (1G) became available in 1977 in Chi- cago. This revolutionary technol- ogy still used analog, but it seam- lessly allowed the user to automati- cally switch from tower to tower as you traveled from area to area. In fact, one of my associates back then at DynaChem was one of the first to get his hands on a cellular phone. It was a black box the size of a cigar box mounted in the trunk of your car with a standard old-school telephone handset mounted on your dash. We were all envious (Figure 2). Before major improvements could be made, the infant industry first had to have a frequency assigned— the cellular band, so to speak. It took the FCC 11 years to approve the AT&T proposal and authorize commercial use of the request- ed 824 MHz band for cellular use. Once that happened, cellular networks began to bloom globally. The phones were large, not usually portable, analog and expensive to buy—typi- cally a few thousand dollars. Costs were also quite expensive per minute of use. By the end of the 1980s the rate of techno- logical improvement had accelerated and in the early 1990s we had the arrival of two dig- ital processes. There was the CDMA standard in the USA, and in Europe, the GSM standard. Improvements in battery and device design gave us the very first truly portable phones, al- though not portable by our 2018 standards. We now had the first digital cellular networks or second generation cellular 2G. Demand grew, and more and more cell tower sites were built. We now started to see the first truly portable devices (Figure 3). In addition to the initial level of true portability, the tech improve- ments as well as going digital now al- lowed for the use of SMS texting over the GSM-based networks. Texting had arrived. Just before the turn of the century, Japan's NTT started their first mobile internet service on the 2G network, but it was soon replaced with their launch of the world's first 3G net- work in October 2001. Many coun- tries quickly followed suit, and over the next few years the USA and South Korea introduced their first 3G net- Figure 1: A pager from the '70s. Figure 3: One of the first portable cellphones. Figure 2: A mobile phone from the early '80s.

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