There aren’t many of us who don’t take the telephone for granted in today’s era, but in the grand scheme of things it really wasn’t that long ago when they didn’t exist. Although a ‘tin can’ variety of magnetic, acoustic voice broadcasting device had been around for a few centuries beforehand, Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone prototype, featuring electronic, micro-phonic implementation didn’t come along until 1876.
Earliest Telephone Experiments
Historians tell us the earliest telephone experiments took place between 1664 and 1685 by British physicist Robert Hooke. By 1667, he had invented a crude, but effective string phone. It was Hooke’s idea which helped bring about the progression of magnetically powered telephones. While these certainly didn’t produce as strong a signal as electronic phones, they were used quite predominantly among those who could afford them.
Acoustic Phones Competed With Electronic Phones
Believe it or not, there was a time when the older, cruder magnetic versions of the telephone competed with the earliest versions of electronic phones. Vying for control of the telephone market, manufacturers took full advantage of Bell’s expiring patent. 300 or so patents later a magnetic phone which could reach as far as a half mile had been manufactured. Many of these phones were used at railroad right-of-ways.
Needless to say, the magnetic telephone soon faded out of existence as electricity became more easy to harness and could be applied to the telephone. While Alexander Graham Bell is credited with the first US telephone patent, there were several inventors in the 19th century who contributed to its quick progression.
Antonio Meucci, – In 1854 the Italian inventor constructed telephone-like devices which were used by many for communication.
Johann Philipp Reis – 1860 – Reis constructed the earliest versions of ‘make-and-break’ telephones, which today are referred to as Reis’ telephones.
Alexander Graham Bell – Was awarded the first US patent for inventing the telephone in 1876.
Elisha Gray – 1876 – Using a water microphone invented a telephone which was rather popular for a time.
In 1876, Tivadar Puskas was credited with creating the first switchboard exchange.
Thomas Edison is famous for inventing the first carbon microphone, which provided the telephone with the strongest signal yet known at that time.
First Commercial Telephone Exchange Board
In 1876, while working with Thomas Edison, Hungarian engineer Tivadar Puskas began work on the first telephone exchange board. Up until this time, telephones could only work through one direct line connected from one home or business to another.
Following many trial and errors, Puskas and his investors opened the first commercial telephone exchange center in New Haven, Connecticut on January 28, 1878. Less than two years from the day, Puskas and Edison had first started on the endeavor.
20th Century Growth of the Telephone
More than 3 million telephones were being used throughout the United States by 1904 and by 1914 they were leading the world in telephone density. Telephone installation and usage in the US continued to grow and lead the rest of the world in the 1900’s, with several residents of England still not using a phone up until the late 1960’s.
Until the 1930’s a separate ringer box had to be used for telephones, but soon the bell and induction coil were being constructed within the phone unit. Batteries had been used up until the 1930’s as well. It was at this time where power could now be provided to the phone subscriber via central office batteries.
The following 30 years saw the telephone progress in size and efficiency, whereby the late 60’s the rotary dial was replaced with touch-tone technology.
Early History of Mobile Telephones
Two-way radios installed in taxicabs, police cruisers, railroad trains and other civil vehicles set the stage for the eventual fruition of mobile telephone capability. As early as 1947 Bell Labs engineers Douglas H. Ring and W. Rae Young entertained the idea of directional antennas which could pick up 3 signals at a time, instead of just one using hexagonal cells. The full technology wasn’t realized until the 1960’s, however.
The first cellular phone call took place on April 3, 1973, by Martin Cooper, the manager of Motorola at the time. Dr. Joel S. Engel, head researcher at AT&T’s Bell Labs was the receiver of the call.
Through the invention of cable, fiber optics, and WIFI we get the telephone technology we have today. While the gist of the electronics of the modern telephone didn’t change very much for several decades recent technological advances have been taking place at light speed rates. The telephone has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.Read More