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The Telephone, the Device That Changed the Way We Communicate

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The Telephone, the Device that Changed the Way We Communicate

The Telephone, the Device that Changed the Way We Communicate

Voice communication is the most commonly used way of expressing our wants, needs and thoughts. The telephone changed the way we communicate. It has been allowing people to talk in almost real time without seeing each other since its development in 1876. Until then, mail and the telegraph was the normal and only means to talk across the country. Although it was effective, those methods were all silent. Now with the telephone, you could truly convey your feelings to someone in a personal way. The other end could hear the happiness, the sadness, or the anger in your voice. Can you imagine life today without it?
The telephone, which means far speaking in Greek, was developed in 1784. For years many people were working to bring this concept into reality. In March 10, 1876 a functioning model was completed by Alexander Graham Bell. “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you!” (Casson, p.12) were the first words spoken by Bell to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson. Finally, after many years of working on a way to transmit the voice over wires, Bell was successful with his design and protection of his product. He even had the foresight to have the patent paper work already done days before his invention was working. The next task would be getting people to use the telephone.
When the telephone was invented it wasn’t very popular. In fact people didn’t believe that it actually worked. Bell was accused of everything from being an imposter to practicing witchcraft. Bell worked hard by putting on demonstrations to display his invention. He would travel to different locations and play music over the telephone. No one at the time could fathom what the telephone could be used for besides entertainment. At this time, no practical use could be seen and investors stayed away from the telephone. “Serious businessmen did not want to invest in a “useless toy” (Novitskaya, 2004).
In order to change public opinion and ensure that it could be practical, a paper was written comparing the telephone to the telegraph, which at the time was the fastest way for long haul communication. Bell hit on the flaws of the telegraph system and enhanced on the fact that the telephone was more user friendly option. The telephone displays grew and there were setup in businesses free of charge to show how convenient it could be. As the acceptance grew, the invention would face a new set of challenges.
The one problem was the original design “both hands were busy”. At first, it was not considered as a serious disadvantage at those times because the novelty had not yet worn off, “the first telephone calls were so exciting that the process was self-sufficient”(Novitskaya, 2004). Despite the opposition, the invention of the phone led to the formation of the Bell Telephone Company in July 1877, which became the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, better known as AT&T. “What was being created was the country's biggest corporation and the largest, most complex machine ever devised: a nationwide telephone network.” (Telephone, 2010).
The company grew rapidly. It started from the first switch board and telephone directory with about fifty names in Connecticut to spending over the United States in a few months. Like the device itself, it had some challenges and it set new trends and standards. It was trying to compete with the Western Union and the telegraph and it also had little capital and no workforce. The telephone company first hired boys to handle the patching of the calls, but decided to use women because they were cheaper and more reliable. They battled the telegraph by keeping the prices low. As the use of the phone systems grew, more people realized the convenience the phone became an essential necessity for business. The use of telephones did not happen as fast because the infrastructure to establish residential telephones didn’t exist, and it was still not fully accepted.
Many people were skeptical of the effects of the telephone for years after the telephone was invented. In 1926 questions such as “Does the telephone make men more active or lazy?” or “Does the telephone break up home life and the old practice of visiting friends?” (Fischer, p.1). Once again, the company used the same techniques that the founders used in the past and started educating the public to dispel the skeptics. They showed how useful the device could be. It ranged from use of the phone for emergencies, to keep in contact with friends and families and also for shopping or to take care of personal business. Slogans like “reach out and touch someone” and “let your fingers do the walking” (Fischer, pp. 83-84). The marketing campaigns were successful and the phone survived to what we have today.
The telephone has gone through major transformation. It has evolved from the original design of “comprised two horns with membranes, the wires from which were hidden in an undistinguished box. One horn was designed for a user to speak into and the other one was applied to an ear for listening.” (Novitskaya, 2004) As time passed, the design and look would evolve. The first major change telephone made it a more useful tool for work. The thought process was change the instrument a hand design so that the user could have a free hand to accomplish other task like writing.
The first solution was to place make the transmitting portion in the base of telephone the user would now only the hold a receiver. Although it allowed the one hand to become free, it limited user's mobility. The second attempt is closer to what we have now where both the receiver and the transmitter were placed in a common handle so that a user could hold them with one hand. With advancement in technology, the phone and the system in general became easier to operate.
Later changes would include the ability to dial a number and automatic switching stations instead of operators. The rotary dialer, which was later replaced with the keypad and cordless phone all set the stage for modern phones. The “invention of wireless communication is a significant step among great and small revolutions in the telephone history.” (Novitskaya, 2004) This allowed even more ability to store numbers and allowed users to make and receive calls from almost anyway. Today it’s easy to see the “importance of phones in people’s lives” (Ling, R. 2004)
The telephone didn’t start some industries, but it has enhanced and added a compliment to the many industries in automation. The importance of the phone has driven many industries to success. The answering machine has evolved to people checking voice-mail. We go on the internet and shop or check our email on the phone. It is real easy for us to keep in touch. Mobile technology also allows our phones to act as a companion offering media players, books, and games in our pockets and purses. The effects of the telephone are so great, that studies have been conduct like the book by Rich Lang, in which he interviewed and observed the impact of the phone.
Alexander Graham Bell’s simple design has led to what we have today. I doubt he could have seen all of the possibilities. Imagining how difficult our lives would be without this device. Lang wrote in his book that the “adoption of text messaging has changed the nature of mobile communication…and change the way we orient ourselves to group coordination.” (Lang, p. 22) Proof that the telephone has not only changed the way people talk but the device has change the way we communicate and continues to by innovation.

Annotated Bibliography
Casson, H. (1910). The history of the telephone. Chicago, IL: A.C McClurg

Fischer, C. S. (1992). America calling: A social history of the telephone to 1940. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Ling, R. (2004). The mobile connection: The cell phones impact on society. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann.

Novitskaya, E. (2004, March 15). Evolution of the shape of telephone components. Retrieved from

Telephone. (2010). In Encyclopedia of American Studies. Retrieved from
Valdar, Andy. ( © 2006). Understanding telecommunications networks. [Books24x7 version] Available from…...

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