LGR Tech Tales – Motorola: Radio Legacy to Mobile Dominance

LGR Tech Tales – Motorola: Radio Legacy to Mobile Dominance

In the year 2000, Motorola was monumental. With a market value of nearly $80 billion and a slew of high-tech acquisitions
and new products on the horizon, they seemed unstoppable. But by 2009, things had gone so wrong so fast, that the company’s value had
plummeted to levels unseen in years. And by 2011, they had to sell off the company in chunks to the highest bidder. For a business that had been
around since the early 20th century, and had survived economic
hardships, multiple wars and even an unsolved murder, this was an ending that few saw coming. What happened? This is LGR Tech Tales, where we take a look at noteworthy stories of technological inspiration, failure and everything in between. The episode tells the tale of
the telecommunications giant known as Motorola. Motorola’s story begins well
before the age of cell phones and telecommunications equipment
that they were known for in the 2000s. To tell their tale, we need to
go all they way back to 1921, to the city of Marshfield, Wisconsin. Engineer Paul Galvin and
his friend Edward Stewart started a battery company in Marshfield that year, after having worked for another
battery manufacturer some years prior. Marshfield was selected because of a deal they
worked out with the local chamber of commerce, but before long it proved
disadvantageous due to poor and costly shipping options in the area. By 1923, the company went of out business, and after a short stint working
at a local candy company, Galvin and Stewart began another battery business, this time in the heart of Chicago. The location was fantastic for shipping but soon a major defect was
discovered in their batteries, and before this could be fixed, their credit ran out and their assets were seized. However, Mr. Galvin was not giving up, because before the company shut down they were developing something
called a “dry battery eliminator.” The concept seems simple today, but it let you take a home radio, plug it into an electrical socket, and accept electricity directly from the grid, no battery required. The creditors now owned
the rights to this device, but they were going up for
auction in the fall of 1928, and Galvin went for it. He won back all rights
to the eliminator for $750 and promptly founded yet
another company in Chicago, this time with his brother Joe, called the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation. All they made at first was
the battery eliminator, but finally it seemed that luck was on their side. The eliminator did well
enough to make a decent profit, and they used that money to
build something new in 1930 that would change the course
of the company’s history. This was the Motorola Radio, the first mass-produced commercial
radio made specifically for automobiles. The Motorola name was meant
to imply “sound in motion,” with “motor” bringing to
mind cars and movement and “ola” being inspired by the names of similar audio devices on the market, like the Radiola and the Victrola. Galvin Engineering was profitable enough to break even after a year of selling the new radio, and eventually the success
prompted a name change. From 1947 onward, the company
would be known simply as Motorola. But even with the Motorola device taking off, it was no smooth sailing. For one thing, the Great Depression
was ongoing in the early 30s, so sales were never exactly booming. Then in 1933, a new
Motorola model was introduced but with tons of problems, which resulted in them having
to recall thousands of units. There was no use
complaining about it, though, and Paul Galvin just piled up the recalled units and smashed them with a sledgehammer. Besides, two new models were on the
way for 1934 without the earlier issues, and the business was getting back on track. In 1936, they introduced the
Motorola Police Cruiser radio receiver, which was a one-way radio
designed to receive police broadcasts. Then in 1940, they released the
SCR-300 and SCR-536 two-way radios, the Handie-Talkie and what is
colloquially known as the walkie-talkie. With the international conflict of what
would become World War II on the horizon, Galvin’s company was in a lucrative position, since the walkie-talkie was a vital piece of kit. However, the next few years were rather grim. I’m not just talking about the war. The company was doing fine, but life at home was another story. Paul Galvin’s wife, Lillian,
and their maid, Edna, were both murdered by an unknown intruder in their home, while Paul was away in
Washington on a business trip. The murderer was never found and the crime remains unsolved to this day. And soon after that, Joe Galvin died, leaving Paul’s son, Robert,
as the sole heir to the company. But even under the shadow of these tragedies, Motorola continued to grow throughout the ’40s, introducing their first television in 1947, and then the germanium transistor
for car radios in 1955. Alongside Paul stepping down as president, and his son, Robert, taking over in 1956, this transistor proved to be
a turning point for Motorola. While had been kind of hesitant
to enter this emerging market, Robert was a firm believer in the new tech. Transistors were rapidly
replacing vacuum tubes and gobbled up far less in
terms of power and space. This led to smaller, more capable electronics, like their 1960 Astronaut television, which was the first large-screen
transistorized cordless portable TV. It also allowed for smaller and
more powerful radio transponders, like the Motorola radios famously
used by Apollo astronauts to communicate with Earth from the Moon. And after the space race
came a new era in computing, spurred on by the commercial
introduction of the microprocessor. Of course, Motorola had their own
take on the microprocessor in 1974, the 8-bit MC6800. Not only was this an important chip in its day, being used in everything from industrial
equipment to communication systems, but its development led to the
iconic MOS Technology 6502, perhaps a story for another day. Around the same time the
microprocessor was taking off, Motorola started work on what would
become the first portable cellular telephone. In April of 1973, they made the first
calls using a system called DynaTAC, or Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage, in New York City. It took a while for the technology to improve enough to become viable for the commercial market, but in 1984, the Motorola DynaTAC
phone was released to the public. This was the beginning of a new era for the company. Gone were the car radios of old. They stopped making those in 1987. It was the late-20th century telecom
and personal computer revolution, spearheaded by Motorola’s brick cell phones, the powerful and omnipresent 68000 series CPU, and beltclip pagers. Yes, pagers, or beepers as some called them, which Motorola introduced in 1986 with the Bravo, a model that would soon become
the number one pager in the world. They especially became associated
with doctors in the later years, but for a while in the ’90s, they
were the must-have fashion item for anyone that was technologically
inclined or just wanted to look awesome. It took a bit more time for cell phones
to catch on to the same degree, but once the logistics were sorted
and the electronics matured, Motorola was once again the cream of the crop. By 1994, 60% of the mobile
phones sold in the United States were made by Motorola, and it looked like they could not be beaten. Ah, but if it weren’t for those
meddling kids at Nokia! Due to a combination of cell
phone service partnerships, keeping manufacturing costs low and going with bomb-proof build quality, Nokia surpassed Motorola as the most popular manufacturer
of cell phones in 1998. And while they may have lost
the cell phone battle to Nokia, Motorola still managed to grow to
their highest valuation ever in 2000 at $78.5 billion. This was partially due to
Robert Galvin’s son, Chris Galvin, who became CEO in 1997. By focusing on emerging technologies like GPRS and making key acquisitions like the buyout of
General Instrument for an $11 billion stock swap, Motorola was in a good position to dominate the 2000s. The problem… was the 2000s. First, there was the tech and dot-com bubble burst, which tore Motorola’s stock down by 40 percent in a few short years. Then the 9/11 terror attacks in
New York City and the SARS scare put a huge damper on the company’s
international supply chains. In 2001 alone, Motorola’s revenues
plunged by nearly $8 billion, 56,000 employees were let go and
plants were closed all over the place, and it culminated with Chris Galvin being shown the door in January of 2004. But just months later, a project that Chris Galvin had
been overseeing hit store shelves: the Razr V3 flip phone, which once again led Motorola
to capture the imagination and the wallets of the
mainstream public in a big way. Its aluminum body was stylish,
lightweight and straight up cool, and a lot like the pagers of the ’90s,
everyone just had to have one. Motorola Razrs were the must-have item, selling over 130 million units altogether, and the company rose back
up to a $53 billion market cap by 2006. Ah, but if it weren’t for those
meddling kids at Apple! Storming onto the scene
with the iPhone in June of 2007. It’s amusing in hindsight, but critics were quick to dismiss the costly device, but once it became the best-selling
phone worldwide a few years later, everyone’s tone quickly changed. Motorola was slow to adapt to
this cataclysm in the marketplace, and it’s no coincidence that after 2006 the company’s valuation took a nosedive, resulting in a restructuring
announcement in 2008. In 2009, Motorola introduced their Droid smartphone, by working closely with Google and
using the Android operating system. Thanks to this device, the phone
division was making a profit by 2010. And it might have stayed that way if it
weren’t for those meddling kids at Samsung! The dominance of their
Galaxy line of Android phones all but shut Motorola out
of the smartphone market. And in 2011, the company split announced
during the restructuring of 2008 took place, which resulted into them
turning into Motorola Mobility, the mobile phone company, and Motorola Solutions, the enterprise and radio communication company. By August of the same year, the Mobility
company ended up being acquired by Google, with Lenovo then purchasing it from Google in 2014. The Solutions company, which many consider
the true successor to the Motorola of old, continues to operate of out Chicago, although large portions of the business
have been sold off to various companies, like Zebra Technologies. And that’s the story of Motorola. A larger than life pillar in the
realm of business and technology, foiled by everything from internal struggles to the world stage at large. It may no longer be the family-run company it was for the better part of the 20th century. Indeed, it is no longer a unified company at all. You may still see products bearing
the Motorola name out there, with Mobility making Lenovo phones and Solutions making radios for UK
emergency services under Airwave, but the old school Motorola is long gone. Their story remains to be learned from, though, with the insurmountable odds the company faced and the far-reaching influence they
had becoming the stuff of legend. And without them, there’s no telling what the
tech world would look like today. ♪♪ And, yeah, it doesn’t look like they’re gonna be re-releasing the Razr at all, even though those videos a little
while back seemed to imply that. Oh, well! If you enjoyed this video at least, then perhaps you’d like to see some of my others. I’ve got some Tech Tales on other similar topics and things that aren’t so similar, so check it out if you’d like. Or you can just subscribe and be notified of things, you know, that’s just what you do on YouTube. And support me on Patreon
if you would also like that because these Tech Tales are a direct
result of the support over there. Thank you so much to those that have donated and made this stuff possible. And as always, thank you very much for watching.


100 thoughts on “LGR Tech Tales – Motorola: Radio Legacy to Mobile Dominance”

  • I like Android and IOS (so don't get me wrong) but I think they are the saddest thing to happen to mobiles (and handheld gaming), I preferred different operating systems for different brands and models. Symbian, palmOS, blackberry OS etc. Everything is so similar now it's boring, I went from Sony Xperia X to Samsung Galaxy S8 and apart from nicer hardware it's the same, Samsungs very modified and bloated android or Sonys close to vanilla android it's still just android though..

  • When i was a radio tech working for a motarola licenced company, I loved them. Easy to work on, exellent performers.

    Now as an amateur radio operater, i lust for, but hate them. They are impossible to program without thousands of dollars worth of software. Id love to use the hardware, but simply can not.

    Add to their list of innovation, iron clad hardware DRM. You can own the hardware, but without the encrypted configuration software, they're useless.

    I think this is the true secret of their 'solutions' arm. Once your in their ecosystem, they have you by the balls. At least their stuff is legitimately good kit.

  • Bought a couple DROID2 phones a long time ago. Along with upgraded batteries. The hardware still functions perfectly, batteries are all kaput. Used them for bicycle lights.

    They were basically Palm top computers for me around 2010-2013. Loved the physical KB. Used it to interact with my security cameras. Music. YouTube.

    The foam at the bottom of the screen started to expand and creep up the display just slightly. I think it was just from being stored in a garage over winters.

  • Damnit, your videos are so relaxing I walked around with my moto phone in my chest pocket listening to this video. Then I bent over to pick something up and the phone flew onto the concrete and smashed the screen. Thanks

  • I just bought a Motorola phone and love it ? I'm glad that Lenovo bought them and are making phones. I have a Lenovo laptop and love it as well

  • ickeausberlin36 says:

    I remember when my friends had beepers and I really would have liked one too. And this video somehow makes me want to have a RAZR or try a Droid.

  • My parents had Motorola razors and I wanted one soooo bad as a kid. I have some slide phones from Motorola as leftovers but I won’t lie, love my iPhone X XD

  • I still remember those days when the Razr V3 was the coolest thing ever, alongside the Nokia 5200. I remember annoying my friends who had the V3 to use its camera (which I thought was awesome). My biggest teenage frustration was not being able to afford a Razr back then. 🙁
    At least I had a Motorola flip phone, the W220. I just loved listening to the radio on that phone.

  • Tech Tales is your best work (for me)… but there's one thing you can do to make it better: Stop telling the end of the history at the beginning… I know it's old stuff, but people from another countries may not know it yet and telling it on the start makes all the facts "less interesting". Still pretty cool though… #history right? (:

  • I work for zebra as a technician, it's crazy how many old Motorola devices are rebranded as symbol devices and or zebra devices, most of there infrastructure devices will be rebranded before too long

  • Motorola is making a comeback. The Moto G series is quickly becoming the people's smartphone to fill the void OnePlus left when they decided to bump their prices up to premium. Now Motorola is developing an even cheaper brand in the sub 200 dollar range and id expect it to explode on the ultra budget smart phone scene even bigger than previous Moto G did.

  • almafuertegmailcom says:

    The 8000 and 8500, the MicroTAC, the StarTAC, the V3 RAZR, Motorola was always at the front of phone development. You might think they weren't with the iPhone, but they had released the Ming 2 years prior. It wasn't as good as the iPhone, but it was 2 years before it, it run Linux, it had a touch screen, it played music, and it was a flip phone with a transparent cover! what was not to like? Had they stick with the Ming and quickly iphonized it, they could've blown the iPhone out of the water before Android even arrived on the market.

  • We still use Motorola radios in our county buses that I work on. They look like they're from the 80's. Wonder where they get new parts from?

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henryk_Magnuski
    "primary contributor in the development of one of the first Walkie-Talkie radios, the Motorola SCR-300, and influenced the company's success in the field of radio communication"
    Fun fact, this polish inventor is far more known in USA than in Poland. Still, very interesting person, working for great company.

  • Do a Tech Tales on Coleco's involvement in the video game business. There's lots of interesting and seemingly sketchy atuff there.

  • Both my parents still use their razors ? mine survived 24 hours outside on grass in a storm after a week of drying out. I loved those phones.

  • oh man, when i was in highschool the razr was the shit. i wanted one so bad and anyone who had one was instantly cool. haha i still think they're the coolest looking flip phone

  • motorola is still awesome imo. They still make innovative and affordable phones and even allow user repair by providing parts and info!

  • Motorola really was a game changer. You also forgot to mention their processors ran a lot of prominent Apple machines.

  • I loved my Motorola Droid 2 and 3, and I miss when smartphones had physical keyboards. If Motorola kept releasing phones with physical keyboards, expandable storage, and removable batteries, I would have continued buying them.

  • Sean Parkinson says:

    While I love technology, It never ceases to amaze me how futile it is to stay up to date with it. Every time I get a new phone, it feels like only a few months before mine is old news… I remember in the ealy 2000's it was still like that, but not nearly as bad. As much as I wish to always have the best tech, it's just not practical anymore with how tech is changing so quickly.

  • Warboss Mowdakka says:

    I have a Motorola G7 Power and I love it. Before that I had a G6 Play, a G5S and a G4 – all great devices. Back in the day, I had a Motorola Droid, and I also had The V3, V3i, V3x and V8. Great phones.

  • Stephen Mason says:

    Weird, for some reason I always thought Motorola was a European brand? …maybe it is because of the “hello moto” voice.

  • I didn’t realize Lenovo had bought Motorola Mobility from Google

    The Razer V3 was certainly one of the best phones of all time

  • so the "Dry Battery Eliminator" was basically the world's first Wall Wart type device. Though in a format more like a laptop charger

  • i got in fact a Motorola Razr, the first one but it has something wtih the screen because it did buy as a demo one and i mean it's first Motorola RAZR

  • You constantly wrong pronunciation of Nokia bothers me quite much, I don't know why… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SOGHOauq7Rw 😉

  • This video makes it look like it wasn't Moto's fault that they were beat by both Nokia and then Samsung in the feature phone and smartphone market. In both cases Moto had a very desirable flagship device, Razr & Droid, but failed to capture the rest of the market. Nokia beat Moto by offering a ton of very different devices for every niche of the market, while also innovating at the high end. Samsung later used the exact same strategy to take Nokia's spot when they screwed up their smartphone business.

  • You forgot to mention Motorola's semiconductor spinoffs: ON Semiconductor in 1999 (discrete, standard analog, and standard logic devices) and later the rest as Freescale Semiconductor in 2004 (microprocessors / micro controllers) (now NXP Semiconductor).

  • god i remember begging my parents for a razr in middle school and everyone wanting to sit next to me on the bus so they could see it

  • NewAgeDerpDerp says:

    The creation of the 6502 in a nutshell:

    MOTOROLA: 68000
    MOS Tech: 6501 [basically the 68k]
    MOTOROLA: sues the crap out of MOS for daring to copy the 68k like that
    MOS: 6502

  • Eh, Motorola Solutions hasn't really ever changed. Two-way has always been their primary focus (and now LTE applications). Granted, they've sold off the entire Schaumburg campus (they only occupy the tower now and lease it) and let go many employees (who were rehired as contractors). Also, Motorola has had pagers since the 1970's and still makes pagers today. The catch, they are FM pagers used for paging emergency services via two-way radio infrastructure using a signalling protocol called Quick Call II (two-tone). Essentially the pagers are simply FM receivers which unsquelch after a specific (programmable) sequential tone sequence is sent (between 500 Hz and 2000 Hz). As far as the more "traditional" beeper style pagers, most of that was sold off to Apollo who sells them to this day.

  • I feel like this story could be expanded. Make a longer story….Motorola made a HUGE impact on all our lives in the 20th & 21st century. Case in point….no mention of the StarTec phone which was the direct predecessor to the RAZR. So much in this company's history was left out for sake of editing time. Oh…can you do the remake entirely doing Duke Nukem voice?? 😉

  • Great episode! I watched it with my Motorola G6 Play and I love it. I'm glad (in a small way) that they are still around.

  • Aesthetic Deluxe says:

    I actually have a Motorola phone. I love it! I've dropped it face first onto the hard ceramic tile floor at my work. Not a damn scratch. It's by far the best phone I've ever owned.

  • Darn those kids at Apple, anyway! Motorola made excellent hand-held radios, used by police and security companies. Ah, the Razor!

  • You forgot to mention Martin Cooper, an engineer who worked back then at Motorola and who is considered the "father" of cell phone technology.

  • P33b4Ugo5omwh3r3 says:

    For some reason I always taught Motorola being a german brand since every product so far I've seen had the made in germany imprint but germany only made motorola products for the europe it seems. Nowadays you can't call anything a product of a certain country since parts for just one product are split int productions throughout hundreds of countries around the world. One example Mercedes originally being german is not being produced in germany at all instead in other european countries mainly in hungary, serbia, poland while some electric parts are even built in russia and china.

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