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Famous for staying,"We've printed a phone,"Randice-Lisa "Randi" Altschul was issued a series of patents for the world's first disposable cell phone in November 1999. Trademarked the Phone-Card-Phone®, the device was the thickness of three credit cards and made from recycled paper products. It was a real cell phone, although it was designed for outgoing messages only. It offered 60 minutes of calling time and a hands-free attachment, and users could add more minutes or throw the device away after their calling time was used up. Rebates were offered for returning the phone instead of trashing it.
About Randi Altschul
Randi Altschul's background was in toys and games. Her first invention was the Miami Vice Game, a cops-against-cocaine-dealers game named after the "Miami Vice" television series. Altschul also invented the famous Barbie's 30th Birthday Game, as well as a wearable stuffed toy that allowed a child to make the toy give hugs and an interesting breakfast cereal. The cereal came in the shape of monsters that dissolved into mush when milk was added.
How the Disposable Phone Came to Be
Altschul thought up her invention after she was tempted to throw her cell phone out of her car in frustration over a bad connection. She realized that cell phones were too expansive to throw away. After clearing the idea with her patent lawyer and making sure no one else had already invented the disposable phone, Altschul patented both the disposable cell phone and its super thin technology, called STTTM, together with engineer Lee Volte. Volte was the senior vice president of research and development at Tyco, the toy making company, before joining up with Randi Altschul.
The 2-inch by 3-inch paper cell phone was manufactured by Dieceland Technologies, Altschul's Cliffside Park, New Jersey company. The entire phone body, touchpad, and circuit board were made of a paper substrate. The paper-thin cell phone used an elongated flexible circuit which was one piece with the body of the phone, part of the patented STTTM technology. The ultrathin circuitry was made by applying metallic conductive inks to paper.
"The circuit itself became the body of the unit," Ms. Altschul told the New York Times. "It became its own built-in, tamper-proof system because you break the circuits and the phone goes dead if you cut it open."
The toy designer with no prior experience in electronics developed the phone by surrounding herself with experts who shared her"conceive-it, believe-it, achieve-it"attitude, as she told USA Today.
"The greatest asset I have over everyone else in that business is my toy mentality," Altschul told the New York Times. "An engineer's mentality is to make something last, to make it durable. A toy's lifespan is about an hour, then the kid throws it away. You get it, you play with it and - boom - it's gone."
"I'm going cheap and dumb," she told The Register. "In monetary terms, I want to be the next Bill Gates."
The STTTM technology opened up the potential for creating countless new electronic products and countless cheaper versions of pre-existing products. The technology was a milestone in electronic innovation.