The Science Fiction that Facilitated the Technology of the Cell Phone

By Sadock Mahuku


When I was young, I used to wonder how people use the cellphone to communicate. I remember back then in the early 2000s, my dad had a manual phone that he always used to call his friends and even people in faraway countries. I was always puzzled to hear someone speaking on the phone. At least as a child, this is what I thought: that there was a human being who lives on the phone and that he is capable of anything. I grew up and realized that my childhood fantasies about the cellphone were not all wrong. There was indeed another individual at the other end of the call who was also holding a phone and replying to the call, except that the person was not physically inside the device. Human imagination, not much different than mine, has fostered many inventions we once thought were impossible, including the cellphone—the imagination that there could be a small device that could be used to communicate with distant people wirelessly.

Many technologies were inspired by fiction, just like the cell phone. A good example is when one man called Cornelis Drebbel invented the first submarine. It was during the first world war (IWW) that he had this idea of making soldiers travel underwater. This was a fiction that many people would not believe—that soldiers could travel underwater. From this fiction, came the first submarine. I call this the power of imagination and fiction.

Likewise, consider AI. The science fiction novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick is one example of a work that has a fully developed, conscious artificial intelligence. Later, “Blade Runner,” which is based on the novel, examines the idea of highly developed, human-like AI. However, this has not been fully developed in real life but several companies including Tesla are developing strong AI with robots that have few human-like features. Other people may neglect science fiction movies because they are created using imagination rather than reality. However, many scientists find inspiration to make the impossible feasible in science fiction films.

The cell phone was long thought to be an impossibility that only existed in fiction. The idea of having a tiny device in your hands that could make long-distance calls and conduct wireless conversations may have sounded absurd and impossible. Of course, cell phones took a long to evolve into what we know today and the spark that inspired their invention. Motorola DynaTAC, the first mobile phone, was developed in 1973 (Cavendish, 2020). You could use a cell phone for 35 minutes at that time, but it weighed 1.1 kg (Cavendish, 2020). It has been stated that cell phones at the time were excessively pricey. Regardless of their accessibility, the idea for them came from sci-fi films. It was claimed that sci-fi films, including Star Trek, where a man by the name of Captain Kirk employed a device in his hand for communications, served as the idea for the cell phone (Cavendish, 2020). However, Cooper revealed in a 2015 interview that the wrist-mounted two-way radio in the science fiction film Dick Tracy served as his inspiration for the cell phone (Cavendish, 2020).

In a nutshell, the development of the contemporary cellphone was significantly influenced by science fiction films. Numerous well-known science fiction movies, including Star Trek and Star Wars, showed technological advancements that are strikingly similar to modern smartphones. These representations aided in popularizing the concept of a compact, portable device that could be used for internet access, texting, and phone calls. A significant contribution to the advancement of technology has also been made by fiction in general. In particular, science fiction encourages readers to consider and investigate novel possibilities, which might lead to discoveries and advancements.


Cavendish L (2020). Welcome to the future: 11 ideas that went from science fiction to


1 February, 2023