By the year 1904 there were over three million phones in the US that were connected by manual switchboard exchanges. From 1878 when the telephone exchange was invented to 1904 there were three million phones. In a 26 year span 3 million phones were added to people’s houses, businesses and community centers. That is over 115,000 phones added per year. Back then it was easy to see that the telephone was here to stay. By 1914 the US had more phones then twice the amount of phones as Sweden, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland. All of this despite the fact that the phone companies in the US could not interconnect with each other.
The most popular phone that people used at this time was the Bell model 102 phone.
This was the first phone to have the transmitter and receiver in the same handset. This was a major invention because before the 102 phone, you would have to use the receiver at a vertical angle, if it was not on a vertical angle the quality of the voice would be very poor. The subscriber set that came with the model 102 contained the ringer and the electrical components to connect to the telephone network. There were reported problems with sidetone. Sidetone is the effect of sound picked up by the telephone’s mouthpiece and instantly introduced at a low electronic signal level into the earpiece of the same handset. This problem was eradicated by the 1930s with the introduction of the model 202 phones. These Bell model 102 phones made the telephone a more commercial product and made it available to not just people in business but also to people at their homes. Because people could only connect with people that used the same phone company as them, this helped bring innovation to the telephone so customers would want to use their phones. Later down the line this made people think about how we could create a global network which we could talk with everyone no matter what company they used, but we will talk about that in a later post.
If you find a Bell model 102 phone you should hold on to it, because in good condition today they could be worth up to 500 dollars. The modern handset is still pretty similar to the handset of the model 102 which speaks to the functionality of the handset. What kind of improvements do you think we will see to the modern desk phone? Will they become smaller? Will they become larger so you can use video to talk with the person on the other end? With all the innovations of the last 100 years we can only imagine the innovations for the next 100 years. Join us next time when we talk about the first mobile phones.