History of the Telephone
As Professor of Vocal Physiology in the University of Boston, Alexander
Graham Bell was engaged in training teachers in the art of instructing deaf mutes how to speak, and experimented with the Leon Scott phonautograph in recording the vibrations of speech. This apparatus consists essentially of a thin membrane vibrated by the voice and carrying a light stylus, which traces an undulatory line on a plate of smoked glass. The line is a graphic representation of the vibrations of the membrane and the waves of sound in the air.
This background prepared him for work with sound and electricity. He began his researches in 1874 with a musical telegraph, in which he employed a make-break circuit driven by a vibrating iron reed which created interrupted current to vibrate the receiver, which consisted of an electro-magnet causing an iron reed or tongue to vibrate, exactly the same as Bourseul, Reis and Gray. One day it was found that a reed failed to respond to the intermittent current. Mr. Bell desired his assistant, who was at the other end of the line, to pluck the reed, thinking it had stuck to the pole of the magnet. Mr. Watson complied, and to his astonishment Bell observed that the corresponding reed at his end of the line there upon began to vibrate and emit the same note, although there was no interrupted current to make it. A few experiments soon showed that his reed had been set in vibration by the magneto-electric currents induced in the line by the mere motion of the distant reed in the
neighborhood of its magnet. This discovery led him to discard the battery current altogether and rely upon the magneto-induction currents of the reeds themselves. Moreover, it occurred to him that, since the circuit was never broken, all the complex vibrations of speech might be converted into sympathetic currents, which in turn would reproduce the speech at a distance.
Bell, with his assistant Watson discovered that the movements of the reed alone in a magnetic field could transmit the modulations of the sound. Working from the analogy of the phonautograph, Bell devised a receiver, consisting of a stretched diaphragm or drum of goldbeater's skin with an armature of
magnetized iron attached to its middle, and free to vibrate in front of the pole of an electromagnet in circuit with the line.
Alexander Graham Bell's telephone patent drawing, 03/07/1876.This apparatus was completed on June 2, 1875, and the same day he succeeded in transmitting sounds and audible signals by magneto-electric currents and without the aid of a battery. On July 1, 1875, he instructed his assistant to make a second membrane-receiver which could be used with the first, and a few days later they were tried together, one at each end of the line, which ran from a room in the inventor's house at Boston to the cellar underneath. Bell, in the room, held one instrument in his hands, while Watson in the cellar listened at the other. The inventor spoke into his instrument, 'Do you understand what I say?' and we can imagine his delight when Mr. Watson rushed into the room, under the influence of his excitement, and answered, 'Yes.' However, the first successful bi-directional telephone call by Bell wasn't made until March 10, 1876 when Bell spoke into his device, "Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you." and Watson answered. Thus, by 1875, Bell had re-invented Meucci's electro-magnetic sound powered transmitter. The first long distance telephone call was made on August 10, 1876 by Bell from the family homestead in Brantford, Ontario to his assistant located in Paris, Ontario, some 16 km (10 mi.) distant.
A finished instrument was then made, having a transmitter formed of a double electromagnet, in front of which a membrane, stretched on a ring, carried an oblong piece of soft iron cemented to its middle. A mouthpiece before the diaphragm directed the sounds upon it, and as it vibrated with them, the soft iron 'armature' induced corresponding currents in the cells of the electromagnet. These currents after traversing the line were passed through the receiver, which consisted of a tubular electromagnet, having one end partially closed by a thin circular disc of soft iron fixed at one point to the end of the tube. This receiver bore a resemblance to a cylindrical metal box with thick sides, having a thin iron lid fastened to its mouth by a single screw. When the undulatory current passed through the coil of this magnet, the disc, or armature-lid, was put into vibration and the sounds evolved from it.
The primitive telephone was rapidly improved, the double electromagnet being replaced by a single bar magnet having a small coil or bobbin of fine wire surrounding one pole, in front of which a thin disc of ferrotype is fixed in a circular mouthpiece, and serves as a combined membrane and armature. On speaking into the mouthpiece, the iron diaphragm vibrates with the voice in the magnetic field of the pole, and thereby excites the undulatory currents in the coil, which, after
traveling through the wire to the distant place, are received in an identical apparatus. [This form was patented January 30, 1877.] In traversing the coil of the latter they reinforce or weaken the magnetism of the pole, and thus make the disc armature vibrate so as to give out a mimesis of the original voice. The sounds are small and elfin, a minim of speech, and only to be heard when the ear is close to the mouthpiece, but they are remarkably distinct, and, in spite of a disguising twang, due to the fundamental note of the disc itself, it is easy to
recognize the speaker.
Earliest Public Demonstration of Bell's Telephone
The apparatus was exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia, in 1876, where it attracted the attention of Brazilian emperor Pedro II, and at the meeting of the British Association in Glasgow, during the autumn of that year, Sir William Thomson revealed its existence to the European public. In describing his visit to the Exhibition, he went on to say: 'In the Canadian department I heard, "To be or not to be . . . there's the rub," through an electric wire; but, scorning monosyllables, the electric articulation rose to higher flights, and gave me passages taken at random from the New York newspapers: "s.s. Cox has arrived" (I failed to make out the s.s. Cox); "The City of New York," "Senator Morton," "The Senate has resolved to print a thousand extra copies," "The Americans in London have resolved to celebrate the coming Fourth of July!"
"All this my own ears heard spoken to me with unmistakable distinctness by the
then circular disc armature of just such another little electro-magnet as this I
hold in my hand."
To hear the immortal words of Shakespeare uttered by the small inanimate voice which had been given to the world must indeed have been a rare delight to the ardent soul of the great electrician.
The surprise created among the public at large by this unexpected communication will be readily remembered. Except one or two inventors, nobody had ever dreamed of a telegraph that could actually speak, any more than they had ever fancied one that could see or feel; and imagination grew busy in picturing the outcome of it. Since it was practically equivalent to a limitless extension of the vocal powers, the ingenious journalist soon conjured up an infinity of uses for the telephone, and hailed the approaching time when ocean-parted friends would be able to whisper to one another under the roaring billows of the Atlantic. Curiosity, however, was not fully satisfied until Professor Bell, the inventor of the instrument, himself showed it to British audiences, and received the enthusiastic applause of his admiring countrymen.
Later Public Demonstrations
The later form based on Gray's liquid transmitter was publicly exhibited on May 4, 1877 at a lecture given by Professor Bell in the Boston Music Hall. 'Going to the small telephone box with its slender wire attachments,' says a report, 'Mr. Bell coolly asked, as though addressing some one in an adjoining room, "Mr. Watson, are you ready!" Mr. Watson, five miles away in Somerville, promptly answered in the affirmative, and soon was heard a voice singing "America." [...] Going to another instrument, connected by wire with Providence, forty-three miles distant, Mr. Bell listened a moment, and said, "Signor Brignolli,
who is assisting at a concert in Providence Music Hall, will now sing for us."
In a moment the cadence of the tenor's voice rose and fell, the sound being
faint, sometimes lost, and then again audible. Later, a cornet solo played in
Somerville was very distinctly heard. Still later, a three-part song floated
over the wire from the Somerville terminus, and Mr. Bell amused his audience
exceedingly by exclaiming, "I will switch off the song from one part of the room
to another, so that all can hear." At a subsequent lecture in Salem,
Massachusetts, communication was established with Boston, eighteen miles
distant, and Mr. Watson at the latter place sang "Auld Lang Syne," "The
Star-Spangled Banner", and "Hail Columbia," while the audience at Salem joined
in the chorus.
Summary of Bell's Achievements
Bell adopted Gray's, and later Edison's resistive transmitters and adapted switching plug boards developed for telegraphy by Western Union. It would be inappropriate to minimize Bell's contribution to the development of telephony. Additionally, Bell succeeded where others failed to assemble a commercially viable telephone system. It can be argued that Bell invented the telephone company.
Bell had overcome the difficulty which baffled Reis, and succeeded in making the undulations of the current fit the vibrations of the voice as a glove will fit the hand. But the articulation, though distinct, was feeble, and it remained for Edison, by inventing the carbon transmitter, and Hughes, by discovering the microphone, to render the telephone the useful and widespread apparatus which we see it now.
The Ericofon was a very futuristic handset when it was introduced in 1956.The modern handset came into existence when a Swedish lineman tied a microphone and earphone to a stick so he could keep a hand free. The folding portable phone was an intentional copy of the fictional futuristic communicators used in the television show Star Trek.
The history of additional inventions and improvements of the electrical telephone includes the carbon microphone (later replaced by the electret microphone now used in almost all telephone transmitters), the manual switchboard, the rotary dial, the automatic telephone exchange, the computerized telephone switch, Touch Tone® dialing (DTMF), and the digitization of sound using different coding techniques including pulse code modulation or PCM (which is also used for .WAV files and compact discs).
Newer systems include IP telephony, ISDN, DSL, cell phone (mobile) systems, digital cell phone systems, cordless telephones, and the third generation cell phone systems that promise to allow high-speed packet data transfer.
The industry divided into telephone equipment manufacturers and telephone network operators (telcos). Operating companies often hold a national monopoly. In the United States, the Bell System was vertically integrated. It fully or partially owned the telephone companies that provided service to about 80% of the telephones in the country and also owned Western Electric, which manufactured or purchased virtually all the equipment and supplies used by the local telephone companies. The Bell System divested itself of the local telephone companies in 1984 in order to settle an antitrust suit brought against it by the United States Department of Justice.
The first transatlantic telephone call was between New York City and London and occurred on January 7, 1927.
This article is licensed under the "GNU Free Documentation License". It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Telephone".