Did you know this black man is behind the invention of the first digital cell phone?

Theodora Aidoo November 14, 2019
Jesse Eugene Russell, The black man who invented-the digital cell phone. Pic Credit: Liberty Writers Africa

Only recently did the technological and scientific skills of the Black race attract world recognition. For decades, history has under-appreciated the prowess of the black when it comes to innovation.

However, blacks have never given up and continue to exhibit their ingenuity and excellence in various fields.

One of such unrelenting black personalities is the inventor of the digital cellphone Jesse Eugene Russell. He is an electrical engineer, and a business executive. He was born on April 26, 1948, in Nolensville, Tennessee to Mary Louise Russell and Charles Albert Russell and raised in inner-city Nashville along with his 10 other siblings.

In 1972, Russell received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee State University. As a top honor student, he became the first African American to be hired directly from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) by AT&T Bell Laboratories according to his biography.

He earned his M. S. degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1973 and subsequently worked at Bell Laboratories as a pioneer in the field of cellular and wireless communications.

In 1988, Russell led the first team from Bell Laboratories to introduce digital cellular technology in the United States and he owns patents like, “Base Station for Mobile Radio Telecommunications Systems,” (1992), the “Mobile Data Telephone,” (1993), and the “Wireless Communication Base Station” (1998).

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Jesse Eugene Russell, aka the Father of the Cellphone. Pic Credit: Pinterest

“The guys that had built this original mobile phone system were really smart, right. But they started to see the passion in me about creating this digital cellular technology. And next thing you know, they got on board and we started. it took us about four years and we made the first digital cellular call to any place in the world,” Russell said in an interview with History Makers.

Russell created the idea for the wireless digital phone and communication, while he was working as an engineer at AT&T-Bell Laboratories in 1988. He developed the world’s first digital cellular base station and holds the patent to the digital services which many companies of the world use today.

Prior to Russell’s invention, a mobile device was only possible to be used in a vehicle or in a car but his invention made it possible for the spread of handset devices and for its affordability.

A new concept was invented by Russell and thus, allowing the possibility for signal transmission between our current handset devices and the cell phone towers.

Russell was said to have held numerous posts including director of the AT&T Cellular Telecommunication Laboratory and chief technical officer for the Network Wireless Systems Business Unit. From 1996 to 2000, Russell served as vice president of Advanced Communications Technologies for AT&T and Chief Wireless Architect for the AT&T Company.

In 2000, Russell became the president and CEO of incNETWORKS Inc., a company devoted to developing fourth-generation broadband wireless communications devices and wireless voice, video and data communications equipment.

His invention has won him a number of prestigious awards such as the Outstanding Young Electrical and Computer Engineer Award from Eta Kappa Nuand in 1980. Twelve years later, he was named the U.S. Black Engineer of the Year for the best technical contributions in digital cellular and microcellular technology and he is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. as well a member of Eta Kappa Nu.

In 1995, Russell was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering. He is married to Amanda O. Russell with four children: Tina, Jesse, Jr., William, and Catalina. He believes that you should “Never let anyone else define success for you”.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: November 14, 2019


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