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The history of car phones

Updated April 17, 2017

Mobile phones attached inside of automobiles became very popular in the 1970s through the 1990s before a majority of the country had personal cell phones. However, the original car phone was invented nearly a century before when one man decided to travel across the country, tapping into the phone lines erected along the road. Today, car phones are not that popular, but can still be found in many limousines and other commercial vehicles.

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First Car Phone

In 1910, an engineer from Stockholm Sweden named Lars Magnus Ericsson installed a telephone in his car. As he drove around the country, Ericsson would connect his phone with a pair of long electrical wires into the telephone poles installed along the road. While this was the first car phone, the concept did not take off in popularity.

Advances in Technology

Advancements in Technology in the 1940s and 1950s led the development of cell towers that could receive signals in three hexagonal directions. This led to the first car phones being installed in Limousines and other commercial vehicles. This new technology stunned the American public when it appeared in the 1954 Humphrey Bogart movie Sabrina.

Car Phone Service

The car phone service became popular and mainstream in the 1970s with the advent of the Autoradiopuhelin, or Car Radiophone service network. This technology connected with the car's battery and used signals that were attached to telephone networks. This would later be known as the Zero G network of mobile ones (the 1G network was the first truly portable mobile phone) also; the first car phone service used high-power transmitter and external antennas to get their signals across.

1980s and 1990s

The first 1G systems were created in 1982 by Nordic Mobile Telephone, and were used across Scandinavia and in other often-remote areas. In the United States, car phones used the Mobile Telephone Service, which was first created in St. Louis, or Improved Mobile Telephone Service. In 1984, analogue cellular service began to spring up all over the country, which began the boom for people to get personal cell phones. Once digital service sprang up in the 1990s and personal cell phones became more affordable, car phones were no longer popular sellers.


Today, car phones are popular in rural areas where digital signal is not available. Both Nokia and Motorola still make car phones that run on the GSM network. Many manufacturers are now making hands-free kits that allow individuals to plug their cell phones into their cars while using the speakers of the radio to listen to phone calls. As more and more states enact driving laws that ban people from speaking on cell phones or texting while driving, the hands-free kits are where the industry is headed.

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About the Author

Dmitry Rashnitsov is a writer based out of Fort Lauderdale. His work has appeared in the "Sun-Sentinel" newspaper, "South Florida Blade" newspaper, "Cape Coral Daily Breeze," "411 Magazine," "South Florida CEO Magazine" and the Examiner.com web platform. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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