In 1989, cellular communication had already begun to take off, but the world had yet to standardize on a single transmission technology. Among the candidates for the new standard were CDMA, TDMA, and FDMA. At the time, only one of them could provide affordable mobile access for anyone who wanted it. CDMA became the basis for the United States’ first nationwide network because of one man’s vision, and one lucky moment that almost didn’t happen.
Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs led his young company to prove to the world the real benefits of CDMA—a technology that even today forms the basis of many mobile networks. During his induction to the Computer History Museum, Jacobs told this story: