When Was the Telephone Invented?
The invention of the telephone was the culmination of work done by many individuals, and involved an array of lawsuits founded upon the patent claims of several individuals and numerous companies. The concept of the telephone dates back to the string telephone or lover’s telephone that has been known for centuries, comprising two diaphragms connected by a taut string or wire.
Sound waves are carried as mechanical vibrations along the string or wire from one diaphragm to the other. The classic example is the tin can telephone, a children’s toy made by connecting the two ends of a string to the bottoms of two metal cans, paper cups or similar items. The essential idea of this toy was that a diaphragm can collect voice sounds from the air, as in the ear, and a string or wire can transmit such collected voice sounds for reproduction at a distance.
One precursor to the development of the electromagnetic telephone originated in 1833 when Carl Friedrich Gauss and Wilhelm Eduard Weber invented an electromagnetic device for the transmission of telegraphic signals at the University of Göttingen, in Lower Saxony, helping to create the fundamental basis for the technology that was later used in similar telecommunication devices. Gauss’s and Weber’s invention is purported to be the world’s first electromagnetic telegraph.
The United States Patent Office issued patent #174,465 to Alexander Graham Bell on March 7, 1876, for his device that could transmit speech electrically: the telephone.
Bell and his assistant, Thomas Watson, began their experiments approximately four years prior with attempts to enhance the telegraph, which transmitted information by an intermittent current. They were looking for a way to send multiple messages simultaneously using a harmonic approach where continuous signals were sent in different pitches. What they wound up discovering instead was a way to talk with electricity.
Alexander Graham Bell (1847— 1922) invented and patented in 1876 the first telephone that was of any real practical use. In 1874 he said: “If I could make a current of electricity vary in intensity precisely as the air varies in density during the production of sound, I should be able to transmit speech telegraphically.” This is the principle of the telephone. On March 10, 1876, the first historic message was telephoned to Thomas A. Watson, Bell’s assistant, who was in another room: “Mr. Watson, come here; I want you.” Bell’s first machine gave electrical currents too feeble to be of much use for the general public.
In 1877 the American scientist Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931) invented the variable-contact carbon transmitter, which greatly increased the power of the signals. The telephone was immediately popular in the United States, but Bell found little interest in Britain when he visited the country in 1878. Then Queen Victoria asked for a pair of telephones and the royal interest resulted in a London telephone exchange being formed in 1879 with eight subscribers.