Click for the TGIF home page.
Your host Phil Ament Click to visit One Small Step Feature
   

Fascinating facts about the invention of the
telephone
by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876..

TELEPHONE
AT A GLANCE:
Probably no means of communication has revolutionized the daily lives of ordinary people more than the telephone. The actual history of the telephone is a subject of complex dispute. The controversy began with the success of the invention and continues today. Some of the inventors credited with inventing the telephone include Antonio Meucci, Philip Reis, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell. Bell's experiments with his assistant Thomas Watson finally proved successful on March 10, 1876, when the first complete sentence was transmitted: "Watson, come here; I want you.".
THE STORY
RELATED INFO
BOOKS
VIDEOS
WEB SITES
QUOTATIONS
HOW IT WORKS
DID YOU KNOW?
Invention: telephone on March 10, 1876
Early telephone photo courtesy www.att.com
Definition: noun / tel·e·phone
Function: An instrument which converts sound, specifically the human voice, to electrical impulses of various frequencies and then back to a tone that sounds like the original voice.t
Patent(s): 174,465 (US) issued March 7, 1876 filed February 14, 1876
161,739 (US) issued April 6, 1875 filed March 6, 1875
Inventor: Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell photo courtesy www.sciencetech.technomuses.ca
Criteria; First practical. Modern prototype. Entrepreneur.
Birth: March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland
Death: August 2, 1922, at Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada
Nationality: American
Milestones:
1831 Michael Faraday proved that vibrations of metal could be converted to electrical impulses
1861 Johann Philip Reis built a apparatus that changed sound to electricity and back again to sound
1871 Antonio Meucci filed his patent caveat (notice of intention to take out a patent)
1874 A. G. Bell while working on a multiple telegraph, developed the basic ideas for the telephon
1875 Bell files first patent for improved telegraphy
1876
Bell and Watson transmit the first complete sentence
1876 Bell files patent application on
February 14,. patent issues March 7
1876
Elisha Gray filed his patent caveat (notice of intention to take out a patent) on February 14,
1877
formed Bell Telephone Company to operate local telephone exchange operation
1877 first city exchange installed in
Hartford, Connecticut
1879 irst exchange outside the United States was built in London, England

1880
invented the photophone, which transmits speech by light rays
1882
acquired a controlling interest in the Western Electric Company, Elisha Gray's company
1883
irst exchange linking two major cities was established between New York and Boston
1885 formed American Telephone and Telegraph Company to operate the long distance network.

1888
coin operated pay telephone was patented by William Gray of Hartford, Connecticut
1891
first automatic telephone exchange was patented by Almon Strowger of Kansas City
1921 The Detroit Police Department, began experimentation with one-way vehicular mobile service.
1928 Detroit Police commenced regular one-way radio communication with all its patrol cars.
1933 Bayonne, NJ Police Department initiated regular two-way communications with its patrol cars
1936 Alton Dickieson, H.I. Romnes and D. Mitchell begin design of AT&T's mobile phone system
1940 Connecticut State Police began statewide two-way, on the frequency modulated (FM)
1941 FM mobile radio became standard throughout the country following the success in Connecticut
1946 A driver in St. Louis, Mo., placed a phone call,it was the first AT&T mobile telephone call.
1948 wireless telephone service was available in almost 100 cities and highway corridors.
1947 cellular telephone service conceived by D.H. Ring at Bell Labs, but the technology didn't exist
1962 The first commercial touch-tone phones were a big hit in their preview at Seattle World's Fair.
1970
commercial Picture phone service debuted in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
1971 Richard Frenkiel and Joel Engel of AT&T applied computers and electronics to make it work.
1973 Martin Cooper of Motorola made the first cellphone call to his rival Joe Engel of AT&T Bell Labs
1978 AT&T conducted FCC-authorized field trials in Chicago and Newark, N.J.
1979 the first cellular network was launched in Japan.
1982 FCC granted commercial licenses to an AT&T subsidiary, Advanced Mobile Phone Service
1983 AMPS was then divided among the local companies as part of the planning for divestiture
1983 Illinois Bell opened the first commercial cellular system in October

phone, telephone, bell, alexander graham bell, alex bell, bell telephone company, at&t, bell labs, western electric, Antonio Meucci, Philip Reis, Elisha Gray, invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
The Story:
Probably no means of communication has revolutionized the daily lives of ordinary people more than the telephone. Simply described, it is a system which converts sound, specifically the human voice, to electrical impulses of various frequencies and then back to a tone that sounds like the original voice. In 1831, Englishman Michael Faraday (1791-1867) proved that vibrations of metal could be converted to electrical impulses. This was the technological basis of the telephone, but no one actually used this system to transmit sound until 1861. In that year, Johann Philip Reis (1834-1874) in Germany is said to have built a simple apparatus that changed sound to electricity and back again to sound. A crude device, it was incapable of transmitting most frequencies, and it was never fully developed.

A practical telephone was actually invented independently by two men working in the United States, Elisha Gray and Scottish-born Alexander Graham Bell. Incredibly, both men filed for a patent on their designs at the New York patent office on February 14, 1876, with Bell beating Gray by only two hours!  Although Gray had built the first steel diaphragm / electromagnet receiver in 1874, he wasn’t able to master the design of a workable transmitter until after Bell had. Bell had worked tirelessly, experimenting with various types of mechanisms, while Gray had become discouraged.

According to the famous story, the first fully intelligible telephone call occurred on March 6, 1876, when Bell, in one room, called to his assistant in another room. "Come here, Watson, I want you."

Watson heard the request through a receiver connected to the transmitter that Bell had designed, and what followed after that is a history of the founding of the Bell Telephone Company (later AT&T), which grew to be the largest telephone company in the world.

The first telephone system, known as an exchange, which is a practical means of communicating between many people who have telephones, was installed in Hartford, Connecticut in 1877, and the first exchange linking two major cities was established between New York and Boston in 1883. The first exchange outside the United States was built in London in 1879. The exchange involved a group of operators working at a large switchboard. The operators would answer an incoming telephone call and connect it manually to the party being called. The first automatic telephone exchange was patented by Almon Strowger of Kansas City in 1891 and installed in 1892, but manual switchboards remained in common use until the middle of the twentieth century.

The coin operated pay telephone was patented by William Gray of Hartford in 1889. The first rotary dial telephone was developed in 1923 by Antoine Barnay in France. The mobile telephone was invented by Bell Telephone Company and introduced into New York City police cars in 1924. Although the first commercial mobile telephone service became available in St. Louis, Missouri in 1946, the mobile telephone would not become common for another four decades.

The first touch-tone system - which used tones in the voice frequency range rather than pulses generated by rotary dials - was installed in Baltimore, MD, in 1941. Operators in a central switching office pushed the buttons; it was much too expensive for general use. However, the Bell System was intrigued by touch-tone because it increased the speed of dialing.

By the early 1960s, low-cost transistors and associated circuit components made the introduction of touch-tone into home telephones possible. Extensive human factors tests determined the position of the buttons to limit errors and increase dialing speed even further. The first commercial touch-tone phones were a big hit in their preview at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

The first Picturephone test system, built in 1956, was crude—it transmitted an image only once every two seconds. But by 1964 a complete experimental system, the "Mod 1," had been developed. To test it, the public was invited to place calls between special exhibits at Disneyland and the New York World’s Fair. In both locations, visitors were carefully interviewed afterward by a market research agency.

People, it turned out, didn’t like Picturephone. The equipment was too bulky, the controls too unfriendly, and the picture too small. But the Bell System was convinced that Picturephone was viable. Trials went on for six more years. In 1970, commercial Picturephone service debuted in downtown Pittsburgh and AT&T executives confidently predicted that a million Picturephone sets would be in use by 1980.

What happened? Despite its improvements, Picturephone was still big, expensive, and uncomfortably intrusive. It was only two decades later, with improvements in speed, resolution, miniaturization, and the incorporation of Picturephone into another piece of desktop equipment, the computer, that the promise of a personal video communication system was realized.

In 1978, American Telephone and Telegraph’s (AT&T) Bell Laboratories began testing a mobile telephone system based on hexagonal geographical regions called cells. As the caller’s vehicle passed from one cell to another, an automatic switching system would transfer the telephone call to another cell without interruption. The cellular telephone system began nationwide usage in the United States in 1983.

The actual history of the telephone is a subject of complex dispute. The controversy began with the success of the invention and continues today. Some of the inventors credited with inventing the telephone include Antonio Meucci, Philip Reis, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Invention of the Mobile Telephone    from The Great Idea Finder
Alexander Graham Bell Biography   
from The Great Idea Finder
Communication History   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Household Items    from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
100 Inventions That Shaped World History
by Bill Yenne, Morton, Dr. Grosser (Editor) / Paperback - 112 pages (1983)
/ Bluewood Books 
This book contains inventions from all around the world from microchips to fire. This is a really good book if you are going to do research on inventions.

Accidents May Happen: 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Hardcover - 86 pages (1996) / Delacorte
Fifty inventions discovered by mistake serious subjects which will delight and entertain kids.
Popular Patents
by Travis Brown / Paperback - 224 pages / Scarecrow Press (September 1, 2000)
Eighty stories of America's first inventions. Each includes a sketch of the invention, a profile of the inventor and a glimpse of how the invention has found its way into American culture.

The Telephone : Turning Point Inventions
by Sarah Gearhart / School & Library Binding - 80 pages (September 1999) / Atheneum
The telephone revolutionized long-distance communication by allowing people to speak with each other quickly, clearly, and affordably. Today, you can send and receive information from virtually anywhere using a wireless telephone, faxes, or E-mail, thanks to Bell's invention of the telephone.
Understanding Telephone Electronics
by Joseph Carr, Steve Winder, Stephen Bigelow / Paperback: 432 pages / Newnes; 4 edition ( 2001)
Understanding Telephone Electronics, Fourth Edition will serve as an essential and invaluable resource for technicians, engineers, students at major universities and corporations, and anyone with an enthusiasm for telecommunication electronics.
The Telephone and Its Several Inventors : A History
by Lewis Coe / Hardcover (June 1995) / McFarland & Company
On the same day that Bell filed his patent application, a caveat (a preliminary patent document) was filed by Elisha Gray. This coincidence sparked the first of many debates over whether Bell was the true inventor of the telephone.

ON THE SCREEN:
The Telephone
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00 / Also VHS
Undeniably essential to modern life, the telephone is the most important, influential, and effective communication tool ever developed. Exploring how one man's speaking device has grown into the technological web that links humankind, this thrilling program also revisits the race between Bell and rival Elisha Gray—who was building a similar design but ultimately filed the history-changing patent just two hours after Bell.
Digi-tech
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00
See how the computing capacity of World-War II era room-sized computers is now surpassed by hand-held devices; visit Zenith to see a side-by-side comparison of regular television and HDTV; discover how a Cold War era NASA program is transforming personal photography, and get the inside story about MP3s.


ON THE WEB:

Alexander Graham Bell's Path to the Telephone
Development was funded, in part, by a grant from the History and Philosophy of Science program of the National Science Foundation. Maintained by the University of Virginia
The Telephone
From the PBS television series The American Experience: The Telephone
1876 The Telephone
The telephone was the beginning of a revolution in communications and commerce.
Cyber Telephone Museum
An Exhibit of Common & Rare Antique Telephones. Lots of great pictures.
Switchboard
Switchboard is the leading provider of white pages, yellow pages, free homepages, free email, and other personalization services on the web.
Telephones in the Office
SciTech, Carbons to Computers series from the Smithsonian Institution. The early office phone was a black, rotary-dial desk model, the Model 500 series, introduced by Bell Telephone Labs. in 1949.
(URL; www.smithsonianeducation.org/scitech/carbons/phones.html)
Antique Telephone Collectors Association
The Antique Telephone Collectors Association, or ATCA, is the largest telephone collectors
organization in the world.
"talking telegraph" Patent of 1871
Antonio Meucci (1808 - 1889) sued Alexander Bell for patent infringement and was nearing victory - the supreme court agreed to hear the case and fraud charges were initiated against Bell - when the Florentine died in 1889. The legal action died with him.
Johann Philipp Reis Telephone
In 1861 Johann Phillip Reis completed the first non-working telephone. His transmitter and receiver used a cork, a knitting needle, a sausage skin, and a piece of platinum to transmit bits of music and certain other sounds. But intelligible speech could not be reproduced.

The Invention of the Telephone
Be it known that I, Elisha Gray, of Chicago, in the County of Cook, and State of Illinois, have invented a new art of transmitting vocal sounds telegraphically, of which the following is a specification:

WORDS OF WISDOM:
"The human voice carries entirely too far as it is...and now you fellows come along and seek to complicate matters." - Mark Twain on the invention of the telephone.
"
A woman... said she was so lonesome she had been taking a bath three times a day in hope that the phone would ring." - Marshall McLuhan, 1964

HOW IT WORKS:

How a Telephone. Works
The very simplest working telephone would look like this inside: A ThinkQuest student Web project.

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • Patent No. 174,465 US issued March 7, 1876 to A. Graham Bell for the Telegraphy
  • In the first month of the Bell Telephone Company's existence in 1877, only six telephones were sold!
  • When Bell's patent was sixteen months old, there were 778 telephones in use.
  • Fifteen years after its invention in 1876, there were five million phones in America. Fifteen years after the invention of cellular phones, more than 33 million wireless phones were in the U.S.
  • During the depths of the Depression, telephones in use fell from 16 to 13 per 100 population and by the late 1970's the number had surpassed 75 per 100 population.
  • It took the telephone 75 years and television 13 years to acquire 50 million users. It has taken the Internet five years. Today, more than 500 million people around the world are connected to the Internet.
  • In 1878, Rutherford B. Hayes was the first US president to have a telephone installed in the White House. And to whom did the commander-in-chief place his first call? Alexander Graham Bell, of course, who was waiting for the call some 13 miles away from the White House. The president's first words were said to have been, "Please speak more slowly."
  • When Alexander Graham Bell died on August 4, 1922, millions of phones went dead. In Bell's honor, all phones served by the Bell System in the USA and Canada went silent for one minute.
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised January 11, 2006.
FEATURED INVENTOR

 Tim Berners-Lee's invention has revolutionized the world like nothing before.
Learn more

FEATURED INVENTION

The invention of the Internet, should be classed with the greatest events of the 20th Century.
Learn more

FEATURED GREAT IDEA
  The Aero Sport All-Terrain Bed with Dual Power Pump is the perfect addition to any camping trip or weekend getaway.
Learn more...  
FEATURED BOOK
This book, is the perfect desktop reference for both the science novice and the technologically advanced reader alike.
Learn more
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Click to visit FIRST
CELEBRATE WITH US
Click to visit Technology Catagories
 
   
Disclaimer   Author    inventors   inventions   timeline  category  games    a-navbarend.gif (873 bytes)
home  | idea history  |  idea showcase  |  special features  | resource center  | guest services  history articles  |  search   a-navbarend.gif (873 bytes)
Copyright © 1997 - 2007  The Great Idea Finder  All rights reserved.