Since its invention in 1876, the telephone remains the most significant innovation in communication technology. Telephone history takes us from its design and development to the creation of the smartphone technologies we use today.
Because of the telephone, humans became able to communicate information quickly and across the world. And telephone history begins with acoustic devices. This is similar to the popular string and cup experiment, where sound is transmitted over a greater distance than speech can, using materials such as wire, string, and tin cans. Many are involved in the telephone’s history; Alexander Graham Bell, Antonio Meucci, Thomas Edison, and Elisha Gray are just a few who played a role in its invention. However, Alexander Graham Bell first created the telephone device capable of transmitting sound telegraphically.
When was the Telephone Invented?
The telephone was invented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell. Bell was one of many inventors who played a role in the creation and development of the phone.
A Timeline of the History of the Telephone
1672: The first acoustic telephone is made by Robert Hooke. He found that sound could travel along a wire or string from a mouthpiece to an earpiece.
1838: Morse code was invented by Samuel B. Morse upon his discovery that you could send messages by pressing, or releasing, a button in intervals, transmitting a pattern of sounds.
1858: The first transatlantic telephone cable was laid, headed by Cyrus Field. This connected the U.S. and England by telegraph.
1876: Teacher Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. He wanted to find a way to transmit speech electronically.
1927: The first transatlantic phone call was made from the U.S. to the U.K. These were radio phones.
1956: The transatlantic telephone cable is replaced, with the replacement being more affordable and successful than the radio-telephone system.
1962: The Communications Satellite Act is passed. This allowed the use of satellites in telecommunications.
1965: The first picture-phone service begins to be trialed.
1977: The first primary cellular test network is launched in the U.S.
1983: Motorola releases the DynaTac.
1992: The first commercial text is sent.
1995: Sprint opens as the first cellular network designed for personal use.
2003: Telephone technology further developed so phone calls could be transmitted using computer networks.
2008: Android and iTunes open, marking the beginning of smartphone popularity.
Alexander Graham Bell
The inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, is an important figure in telephone history. Being interested in sound and speech, Bell and his brothers invented an ‘automaton’ – a mechanical man. Using bellows to push air through its windpipe, they could make it ‘speak.’ From his fascination, he began concentrating on how electricity could transmit sound. This was also due to his work with deaf people and his desire to help people communicate easier.
In 1871, Bell traveled to Boston in America to train teachers at the School for the Deaf and continued his work. Then, in 1874, he began working with Thomas Watson, a skilled electrician. Together, they continued experimenting and developing a way to transmit speech. Then, on the 10th March 1876, Alexander and Thomas made the first telephone call, with Bell saying, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you!”
The Bell Telephone Company was set up in 1877. By 1886, over 150,000 people in the USA owned telephones. Bell received many awards and accolades for his work as developments continued. He used much of his wealth to set up laboratories and to fund other young scientists. Bell also set up a center for study and research into deafness which is still active in Washington.
The sound measures, the bel and the decibel, are named after him. Bell died in 1922, aged 75.