COMMUNICATIONS PIONEERS: Gene Roddenberry

Yeah, the Star Trek guy. An otherwise obscure TV writer and sci-fi author is a communications pioneer? You bet, and here’s why.

In 1973, the first cell phone call took place on a public street. (You have to imagine the looks that guy was getting.) It was the inventor of the cell phone, Martin Cooper, calling his primary rival to say that he’d done it, that he was capable of making a direct-dialed call using a handheld device to a regular phone number. That’s a lot of mumbo jumbo, but it explains the difference between that one phone call and everything that came before.

There was mobile phone service before that moment, but it involved a complicated radio link between the mobile user and the regular phone, and at least two people in the middle.

For younger readers, it’s impossible to even explain the revolution that the cell phone brought. Before the cell phone, meeting someone anywhere was a nerve-wracking experience. If you were lost, or your car broke down, you were left walking miles looking for a pay phone.

But what about Gene Roddenberry? Dr. Cooper, who’s listed as having invented the mobile phone, has been asked multiple times what his inspiration was when creating something so revolutionary. His answer: Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry, and its handheld communicators.

So there you go.