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Happy 40th birthday, cell phones!

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Marty Cooper (Credit: Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

When historians start to suss out the people who had the biggest global impact of the 20th century, Marty Cooper may well be among the frontrunners.

Forty years ago today, Cooper made the first call ever on a portable cellular phone, a device he and his team at Motorola had just completed. (That call, ironically, was to the head of the research department at rival Bell Labs, which was racing Motorola to invent the technology.)

Today, Cooper's invention is ubiquitous. The number of people who have a cell phone subscription globally now tops 6 billion, roughly 85 percent of the world's population. Smart phone users stand at 1 billion, a figure that's expected to double by 2015.

Cell phones have revolutionized more than just the telecommunications industry, of course. They've made the world rethink what a computer is. They've changed our language (imagine a world without "LOL" and "BRB"), and, in recent years, they've completely upended the video game world.

The number of gamers saying they played more mobile games in 2012 (compared to 2011) increased 50 percent, according to The NPD Group. Angry Birds maker Rovio is one of the biggest gaming beneficiaries of the cell phone, with sales last year hitting $194.8 million, double their 2011 number.

Cell phones themselves? They've come a long way, too. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, the first cell phone to hit the market, weighed 2.5 pounds. When it went on sale, it cost $4,000, which works out to $9,000 today. No word on what the carrier charges were, but endless talk and text packages weren't even a distant dream at that point. It kind of puts that $200 charge for an iPhone or Galaxy Note II in context, doesn't it?

A few other fun facts about cell phones to keep in mind as Cooper (who, at last check, used a Droid Razr) and Motorola blow out the candles on the cell phone's birthday cake:

  • Motorola made its first workable prototype in just three months.
  • The battery life on the first cell phones was just 20 minutes.
  • The first text message – "LOL" - was sent 19 years after the creation of the cell phone.
  • It took 10 years for the FCC to green-light cell phones for use among the general public.
  • The first smartphone didn't appear until 1993.
  • Tetris was the first game to appear on cell phones, making its debut in 1994.
  • The world's most popular cell phone is the Nokia 1100, which has been sold more than 250 million times.

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