History of The Telephone

Along with the invention of the computer, the television and the camera, the telephone must be one of the most important inventions ever made. It’s a very important device that many people could hardly live without even up to the present. It’s a convenient means of communication and it takes too little time to connect. Before its conceptualization, people have sent information through mail or through the telegraph.


The invention of the telephone was credited to Alexander Graham Bell in the 1870s although there was also another inventor, Elisha Gray, who independently designed another version of it. Both designs featured devices that are capable of transmitting speech electrically. According to several sources, Alexander Graham Bell won the patent since he filed for the patent hours earlier than Elisha Gray.


Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburg, Scotland to a family whose specialization included elocution and correction of speech. Later in life, Bell studied the same field of specialization and was able to look deeper into the intricacies of the technology behind the telegraph and other inventions. He made some improvements to Thomas Edison’s phonograph, which eventually led to the invention of the photophone. Bell also developed a flying machine of his own six years after the Wright Brothers tested and launched their first design. Bell also invented a metal detector.


Prior to the invention of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell first made some attempts to improvise the telegraph. During the early experiments, Bell experimented with electrical signals to enable the telegraph to transmit multiple messages at a time instead of only one. By this time, Bell and his associate, Thomas Watson, were hoping to develop an improvised version of the telegraph they called the “harmonic telegraph”. Through various experiments, Bell and Watson discovered that different tones can be produced out of varying strengths of the electric current in a wire. Eventually, they were able to develop a transmitter that can adjust the strength of electric currents to produce varying audible frequencies. The “harmonic telegraph” project was funded by Gardiner Green Hubbard.


In 1875, Bell discovered a strange sound which came from his harmonic telegraph. It sounded like a twanging clock spring over a wire. In less than a year later, Bell made the first telephone model for which he uttered the famous first words over the telephone: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” In 1877, the first regular telephone line was installed in Boston, which was also connected to Somerville, Massachusetts. A year later, Bell established his first telephone company, which is currently known as American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T). In 1889, William Gray invented a different version of the telephone, the coin-operated telephone, commonly known as the payphone. The first coin-operated telephone was used in Hartford Bank.


Since the telephone’s invention, the telephone lines were connected in such a way that there was only one line for two subscribers, until Almon B. Strowger invented the Strowger Switch. Using relays and some sliders, the Strowger Switch can connect one line to a hundred lines. The first telephone conversation using this switch was in 1892 in La Porte, Indiana. Five years later, Strowger’s associate changed the look of the older version of the telephone. He introduced the rotary dial, which eventually replaced the telephone buttons. In the 1970s, telephones had gone wireless and thus, cordless phones were invented. A year later, Erna Schneider Hoover, an associate in the Bell Labs since 1945, was granted a patent for the first computerized telephone exchange. In 1982, Carolyn Doughty, also from Bell Labs, was granted the patent for the first Caller ID.


Digital cordless phones were introduced in 1994, while the digital spread spectrum (DSS) was first presented in 1995. These inventions were made to make cordless phone conversations more secure by making the conversation digitally spread out. The invention of the telephone also brought about the popular use of telephone books and yellow pages, in 1878 and in 1886, respectively. The American emergency system or the 911 hotline was also developed in 1968.