|Alexander Graham Bell & Watson|
|Williams Coffin Telephone|
The telephones were called "coffins" because of their shape. The telephone did not require electricity to operate, but used AC power to operate.
In 1875 there were 37 states and the population of the U.S. was 38,558,371. The first Kentucky Derby ran at Churchill Downs on May 17, 1875.
Other inventors included Theodore Vail, who helped set up the Western Electric Company. He also oversaw the first long distance system from Boston to Providence in 1881. In addition, Thomas Watson, Bell's assistant, assembled every telephone himself. Charles Williams ran a machine shop in the same building that housed Bell's workshop, and was contracted to manufacture the telephones.
Telephone Trivia: Who invented the telephone number? The telephone number was invented by Dr. Moses Parker in 1879. During an outbreak of measles, Dr. Parker was concerned that the replacement operators that were filling in for the sick ones would not know which people were associated with the several hundred jacks that needed to be patched.
|Meridian Telephone Company|
In 1899 Howard W. Chellis decided he was going to establish communications between his cousin and himself. This distance between them was only two miles. He actually figured it out and then others in their community wanted the service, all without a switchboard. The switchboard entered the picture in 1904. When Harold's wife came home with their first born son, she found it in the dining room. There were about 28 customers in the directory, all of whom were served over a total of four exchange lines. The service charge for one year was $10.
|20-Line 4-Trunk Switchboard|
|Silver Dollar Floor Tandem Coin Phone |
(a/k/a High Boy) 1894
Within two years increasing volume overwhelmed the Williams shop, and Bell hired additional manufacturers in Baltimore, Chicago, and Cincinnati. This solved Bell's difficulties in meeting demand for a time, but the new manufacturers were difficult to control. Bell eventually choice one manufacturer to avoid issues, choosing Western Electric, which by then was the largest electrical manufacturer in the United States.
One of the most striking features of early telephones is the craftsmanship with which they were produced. Most of the early coffin telephones were made of mahogany. After that, telephones were made with hardwoods such as walnut and cherry.
One of the problems with Bell's telephones is that he could not develop a powerful enough transmitter which allowed others to get into this market, including Emile Berliner, who would invent the gramophone in 1887, and Thomas Edison, who was hired by Bell competitor Western Union.
Tidbits of the late 1800s:
*There were 38 states and the population of the U.S. was 50,189,209.
*The Statute of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor from France in July 1885.
*Poet Emily Dickinson dies in Amherst, MA on May 15, 1886.
*On March 11-14, 1888, the "Great Blizzard of 1888" blankets parts of New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut with over 50" of snow.
*The May 31, 1889, "Johnstown Flood" kills more than 2,200 people after heavy rains destroys the South Fork Dam.
In 1894 Bell's patent expired. Between 1894 and 1904 over 6,000 independent telephone companies went into business in the United States, and the number of telephones boomed from 285,000 to over 3 million. However, the number of new telephone companies produced another issue - there was no interconnection, that is, subscribers to different telephone companies could not call each other. Some people had two telephones from different companies. In fact, there were three companies serving the small town of Hopkinton, New Hampshire, resulting in some customers have three telephones.
Telephone Trivia: What location produced the first telephone book in the United States? New Haven, Connecticut was the first town to print a telephone book in 1878. The list of subscribers was one page long with 50 locals on it. The locals that received the book would have to contact the operator and then ask for the parties by name.
|The Candlestick Telephone|
|Telephones without a dial|
As to how numbers started appearing on telephones came about in 1892, originating out of an unusual circumstance. It's not too long of a story, so here goes.....
|Almon B. Strowger|
Strowger did not have a working model for his telephone but applied and received a patent for his design, but the idea eventually became a system in which a telephone user could push buttons on a phone to connect with other phone lines without the need for an operator. It ended up costing him $4,000 to get a working model of his device. The first automatic telephone exchange was installed successfully in La Porte, Indiana, and it debuted on November 3, 1892. Strowger's invention, which remained in use in different forms until the 1970s, transformed the telephone industry.
Telephone Trivia: What letters did old rotary telephones not use? (1) Q and W; (2) Y and Z; (3) Q and Z; or (4) X and Z? (Answer: Q and Z.)
People were very nervous about changing over to the new automated dialing system. They were accustomed to the operators and liked the comfort of knowing they were available 24/7.
|Number please .... AT&T Telephone operators 1943|
Telephone Trivia: Who decided we should say "hello" when we answer the phone? Hello gained widespread usage through the increased use of the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell originally suggested the telephone greeting ahoy. But the greeting that stuck was hello, which may have been suggested by Thomas Edison. Hello-girls were the name for the central telephone exchange operators. Hello came into existence in the mid-1800s. It is an alteration of hallo, which was an alteration of holla or hollo. These words were used to attract immediate attention and demand that the listener come to a stop or cease what he was doing. Hallo was used to incite hunting dogs.
Telephones also became part of a home's decor. They could now be found in every room in a house in different colors and styles, as well as novelty telephones. Then touchtone service replaced the dial system, and digital replaced analog.
|Antique phone booth|
Invented in 1889, the pay phone went almost 10 years before it became a coin-op model. Before that, they were on an honor system. For most of the 20th century, they were an essential part of our society. At their peak, there were over 2.5 million pay phones in the United States.
|1900 Antique Phone Booth|
Telephone trivia: When did we start using area codes? The use of area codes in the U.S. and Canada began in 1947 in large cities for connecting long distance calls between toll switching centers. The first customer dialed long distance calls were possible in Englewood, NJ in 1951. If a state had just one area code it had a 0 in it (i.e., 603) but if it had multiple area codes they each had a 1 in it (i.e., 916 & 213). Big cities were given numbers near the beginning of the dial (i.e., NYC 212) to make dialing quicker for the large volume of customers.
|United States Area Codes, October 1947|
There was an anti-digit dialing league that was a short-lived movement that arose in 1962 and faded in 1964. It was founded in San Francisco, and opposed "creeping numerialism" and fought a losing battle to preserve the use of telephone exchange names. They produced a pamphlet manifesto called "Phones are for People."
Why dial 555? Virtually all U.S. phone numbers used on fictional programs begin with area code 555 and end with four random numbers. "555" is an exchange number commonly thought to be reserved by the phone companies for use by TV and movies in order to prevent prank phone calls to real people. In fact, only 555-0100 to 555-0199 are specifically reserved for fictional use, and the other numbers have been released for actual assignment.
The 555 exchange was originally useful for this purpose because under the North American Numbering Plan (the "Plan"), which included the United States, Canada, and several other nearby countries, it was reserved for various internal phone company service numbers, so if you called one of the 555 numbers, you wouldn't reach an actual customer. And if you were dialing (area code) 555-1212 within North America, you would most likely have been connected to directory assistance.
Another fake number was possible because, under the original numbering system, the second digit of a seven-digit local number was not allowed to be 0 or 1, whereas the second digit of an area code was limited to 0 or 1. This allowed fictional telephone numbers such as 606-0842 in the song by the B-52s. Beginning in the 1980s, the need for additional prefixes and area codes eliminated these limitations in certain large cities and throughout the numbering plan by 1995.
Some movies and TV shows have taken advantage of a technical requirement of the Plan's telephone numbers that states that the first digit of the seven-digit local number cannot be 0 or 1. So a number like 818-162-1353 or 213-079-1611 will be used. As it happens, if the area code is 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, or 833 (the Plan's area codes for toll-free dialing), 555 is a valid prefix. So, 800-555-XXXX could be a real phone number.
During an era when exchanges were commonly specified as names, such as World War II, an exchange may use the name "KLondike" perhaps followed by a 5, which works out to the same thing; songs "BEeachwood 4-5789" and "PEnnsylvania 6-5000" are examples.
The number 555-2368 was once particularly popular, possibly because of the "2368" combo's use in old phone ads. Dialing 555-2368 at one time would have connected you with the Ghostbusters, the hotel room from Memento, Jim Rockford of the Rockford Files, and Jaime Sommers from The Bionic Woman, among others.
Telephone Trivia: When did we start using 911? The first universal emergency number was established in Great Britain in 1937. To receive police, fire or ambulance assistance, an individual would dial 999. In the United States, the first nationwide emergency number was in 1957, when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended use of a single number for reporting fires. It wasn't until February 16, 1968, though, that Senator Rankin Fite completed the first 911 call made in the United States in Haleyville, Alabama. The serving telephone company was then Alabama Tel. Co. That 911 system is still in use today.
|Gold Telephone from Godfather II|
Like most things made of gold, it was meant to convey power, as only a very rich and powerful person would have a phone made of gold. In fact, real life ITT also made a gold phone for the Pope, with the joke being that it was for a higher power, i.e., a telephone to God.
|The Incredibles' Phone|
In the movie, The Incredibles, Mirage's phone number toll-free phone number on her calling card is 866-787-7476, an unregistered phone number at the time of the movie's original release. When compared with the numbers on a regular phone, the last seven digits spell out the word "suprhro."
Quote for the day: "When you consider that our technology has advanced from the first telephones to smart phones in roughly a century, it's easy to understand why it seems like tomorrow is arriving faster than it ever did." ~~ Annalee Newitz