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14 Feb 2019

Did You Know the Telephone was Invented on Valentine’s Day? Part Two

Last week, we talked about how it wasn’t so clear if Alexander Graham Bell was the true inventor of the telephone (check out part one here). Of course, like many things, the telephone didn’t come fully formed. Like all the best things, it was a group effort.

The earliest type of a telephone was the string telephone. You probably made one of these as a kid; I know I did. In researching this, I found it was known as a Lover’s Telephone, which I think is lovely.

I like the idea of secret lovers tying a bit of string between two paper cups to whisper sweet nothings in private.

Next up, was Charles Grafton Page. While messing around with wire and a horseshoe magnet, he found it was possible to cause a ringing noise. He called this “galvanic music”.

In about 1857, Johann Philipp Reis actually created a working phone. It did transmit voice electronically over great distances, but it was very difficult to use. It wasn’t very practical. In 1947, a British company tested it and confirmed it worked well; however, at the time, they were in talks with the company Bell founded. Allegedly, they covered up the results of the Reis phone to protect Bell’s reputation!

In 1864, a man named Innocenzo Manzetti had an automaton. Using a telephone-like device he gave it the power of speech! A newspaper reported at the time,

“Manzetti transmits directly the word by means of the ordinary telegraphic wire, with an apparatus simpler than the one which is now used for dispatches. Now, two merchants will be able to discuss their business instantly from London to Calcutta, announce each other speculations, propose them, conclude them. Many experiments have been made already. They were successful enough to establish the practical possibility of this discovery. Music can already be perfectly transmitted; as for the words, the sonorous ones are heard distinctly.”

Sounds like a phone to me.

Then it was Bell and Meucci (covered in last week’s blog) who put all the parts together along with a few new bits to create what would became the modern telephone.

Due to costs and social stigma, it took a little while for the average person to get a phone at home, but businesses started using them immediately. Just a few years later, there would be tens of thousands of phones in operation. Now the phone is an essential tool for business, have you thought about how your business uses it phones?

Best wishes


Bonus titbit: The first underground telephone cable was laid in a ditch created by fixing a plough to a train!

Adam Fox

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