The Early Telephone

Without the technological advances of the mechanical acoustic devices and the electrical telegraph the modern day telephone as we know it might not be around today.  The inventor of the telephone is not entirely clear.  Charles Bourseul, Innocenzo Manzetti, Antonio Meucci, Johann Philip Reis, Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray all have been credited with the invention.  All of these men had patents for the telephone and there were many law suits and counter law suits for the patent of the telephone.  But The Bell and Edison patents were commercially decisive and were upheld by court decisions in the United States.  Since Bell was the first person to patent the telephone as an “apparatus for transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically” he got his patent and is considered the inventor.

“The main users of the electrical telegraph were post offices, railway stations, the more important governmental centers (ministires), Stock exchanges, very few nationally distributed newspapers, the largest internationally important corporations, and wealthy individuals.”( Private Telegraphs, The Sydney Morning Herald, credited to The Times, 19 April 1878, p. 6.)

With the invention of the telephone and the telephone exchange more citizens were able to use the telephone not just businesses and governmental agencies.  Before the invention of the telephone exchange, “by Hungarian engineer Tivadar Puskas in 1876, pairs of telephones were connected directly with each other which was primarily useful for connecting a home to the owner’s business.” (Bo Leuf (2002). Peer to Peer: Collaboration and Sharing Over the Internet. Addison-Wesley. p. 15. ISBN 9780201767322.)  The telephone exchange provides telephone service for a small area.  Operators would manually have to switch the subscribers call and connect it with the other subscribers call.  This made it possible for people to call each other at homes, businesses or public spaces.

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An early telephone exchange

“The First commercial telephone exchange was opened in New Haven Connecticut with 21 subscribers on January 28, 1878 in a storefront of the Boardman Building. (Withdrawal of National Historic Landmark Designation: Site of the First Telephone Exchange, New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, United States National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, 13 April 2006. Archived 15 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine.)

George W Coy designed and built the worlds first switchboard for commercial use after seeing Alexander Graham Bell’s lecture at the Skiff Opera House in New Haven.  Coy applied for and received a franchise from the Bell Telephone Company of New Haven and Middlesex Counties.  He established the District Telephone Company of New Haven on January 15th 1878.  His switchboard was constructed of carriage bolts, handles from teapot lids and bustle wire.  Only two conversations could be handled simultaneously and six connections had to be made for each call.  At the start The District Telephone Company of New Haven had only twenty-one subscribers who paid $1.50 per month. By 1878 when the first telephone directory was published they had fifty subscribers listed.  Most of these were businesses and listings such as physicians, the police, and the post office, only eleven residences were listed and four of them were with the company.

“The Site of the first telephone exchange was granted a designation as a National Historic Landmark on April 23 1965.  However it was withdrawn in 1973 in order to demolish the building and construct a parking garage.” (Withdrawal of National Historic Landmark Designation: Site of the First Telephone Exchange, New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, United States National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, 13 April 2006. Archived 15 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine.)

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Location of the first telephone exchange.  It was in the store with the awning.

The inventor of the telephone may be a controversy but the impact it has had on everyday life is not.  Almost everybody uses a phone at least once a day.  Weather that is to conduct business, check up on an old friend, or call your mom and tell her you love her.  All of this can be conducted on the telephone.  The HCK Group is a business that is dedicated to giving businesses the right telephone solution so they can do business more effectively.  We would not be around if it wasn’t for these inventions.  It must have been shocking to be able to call up a business and see if they had a certain item in stock instead of going there to find out.  What is the future like for the telephone?  What new features will be invented that will make the telephone more convenient than it already is?  We would love to hear your thoughts or comments, and please check back next week for our next installment of “The History of Telephony”.

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