New Books Network

It’s easy to take for granted that one can pick up a cell phone and call someone on the other side of the planet....

It’s easy to take for granted that one can pick up a cell phone and call someone on the other side of the planet. But, until very recently, this had been a mere dream. Martin CollinsA Telephone for the World: Iridium, Motorola, and the Making of a Global Age (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018) explores how Motorola tried—and eventually failed—to turn this dream into a reality. Collins, curator of the civilian applications satellite collection at the Smithsonian Institution, tells a remarkable story, one that is deeply relevant to our interconnected present.

Using Motorola as a case study, A Telephone for the World tracks how U.S. businesses navigated the end of the twentieth century, a moment marked by the rise of neoliberalism, the economic challenge of Japan, and the end of the Cold War. Most significantly, the book shows how businesspeople at Motorola responded to global conditions, sought to create a global firm, and even constructed “the global as a way of life.” The book is therefore a deep dive into the mechanics of globalization, as seen from the inside of a global company. A Telephone for the World will interest historians of technology, communications scholars, business historians, and anyone who wants to know more about globalization.


Dexter Fergie is a PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th-century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at dexter.fergie@u.northwestern.edu or on Twitter @DexterFergie.