The invention of the telephone is accredited to Alexander Graham Bell who, on March 10th, 1876, spoke into his device and said to his assistant “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you”. With those simple words, Bell kickstarted the telephone era with his ﬁrst bi-directional electronic transmission of the spoken word. Although Alexander Graham Bell is most widely accepted as being the creator of the telephone due to him receiving the ﬁrst patent to his device, the origin of the telephone is complicated and inconclusive with Elisha Gray, Antonio Meucci and Innocenzo
Manzetti each claiming to be the phone’s true inventor.
Following the invention of Bell’s original device, the telephone starting receiving widespread adoption as people started to understand what a revolutionary creation the phone was. Popular from the 1890s to the 1930s, the candlestick phone was separated into two pieces. The mouthpiece formed the candlestick, and the receiver was placed against the ear during a call. This style died out in the 30s when phone manufacturers started to incorporate the mouthpiece and the receiver into a single unit.
The next iteration of the telephone was the infamous rotary phone which spanned from the 1930s to the 1960s. Notoriously tedious to dial by todays standards, the rotary phone was revolutionary at the time. To make a call, you would have to rotate the dial to the number you wanted to select, allow the dial to return to it’s original position and repeat the process until the number was completed. In 1963, the telecommunications company AT&T introduced what they called “touch-tone” which is a dialling system somewhat reminiscent of what we use today. To dial a number, one would simply press the buttons on the keypad.
Each key would transmit a particular frequency which would signal to the operator which number you wanted to call. While much more advanced than the rotary dial method, there were ways of rigging the system to achieve free long-distance phone calls. This was done using a blue box which quickly became a popular device to build amongst students studying electronics at the time.
One pivotal point in the progression of telephone technology was the invention of the answering machine. These would allow the callers to leave a short message if no-one answered the phone on the other end. Not popular until the 1960s, answering machines were very much like their modern counterparts in many respects however cassette tapes were used instead of digital memory which has only been a somewhat recent advancement in answering machine technology, surfacing in the past 15-20 years.
Portable phones or cordless phones arrived next on the scene and their introduction into the home was similar to that of the TV remote. Debuting in the 1980s, cordless phones made a signiﬁcant splash as you were no longer physically attached to your phone’s base station, and could take or make a phone call from any room in your house. It was almost like a small-scale mobile phone.
On the topic of mobile phones, 1984 marked the release of the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, the ﬁrst commercially available cell phone. Although more than 10 years earlier in 1973, Martin Cooper made the ﬁrst cell phone call ever with a predecessor of this beast, it took years of development to create a mobile phone that would appeal to the masses, and rightly so. The DynaTAC was aptly nicknamed “The Brick” weighing in at almost 800 grams. Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks was the mere 30 minutes of talk time on a single charge. Or maybe it was the price tag, a hefty
After the introduction of the ﬁrst mobile phone, development and miniaturisation of the device sped forward at incredible speeds for the time. Notable improvements include the Nokia 5110 which was the ﬁrst pocketable cell phone with signiﬁcant battery life and the famous “Snake” game. Caller ID
was also a signiﬁcant development allowing us to see…