Washington, DC Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Area’s 1st Wireless Call

Thirty years ago, the mobile phone seemed as unlikely to hit the mass market as James Bond’s Rolex Submariner. But like 007’s one-of-a-kind secret agent watch, today’s smartphone performs tasks considered to be the stuff of early science fiction. While it doesn’t double as a bullet deflector or rocket belt (at least not yet), even some of its most basic functions would have far exceeded our wildest imaginations back then.   

At the top of that list would be something that first happened in the Washington, DC area 30 years ago this month, something we now take for granted every day – the ability to make a wireless phone call. On April 2, 1984, Larry Nale and Dan Novak, both technicians for Bell Atlantic Mobile, now Verizon Wireless, made the first wireless phone call in the Washington, D.C., area. Nale dialed from his Audio-vox 3-watt, hard-wired car phone in Southeast Washington, and Novak answered from a landline phone in Adelphi, Md. – a success that prompted Nale’s response, “Hey this stuff really works!” to go down in history.

Today, it’s about the power of wireless technology and the impact it has had on lives. The past three decades have brought the convenience of mobile services to unexpected heights and led to breakthrough technology in healthcare, education, sustainability and public safety.

Back on that spring day, the potential of what could become a reality.