It is amazing to think how far technology has come in the last 50 years alone, yet the telephone was invented more than 100 years ago by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, when he said the famous words: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”
The earliest designs of the telephone were locally powered, with only a singular wire to send and receive voice signals. (This design was similar to the operating system of the telegraph.) In 1878, the “Wall Phone” was introduced, with its transmitter built directly into the phone. This phone was widely used until the early 20th century, when the first rotary phones made their debut.
Between 1900 and 1905, the amount of phones in the Bell Network jumped from 600,000 to 2.2 million. But, if someone wanted to make a long-distance phone call, they would have to set up an appointment to use a public phone booth. Interestingly, the first payphone was installed right in Hartford, Connecticut in 1889.
Women had an important role in the development of the telephone, as they were widely regarded as the most frequent users. In addition to fostering tighter social circles, the telephone enabled women to work in the area of telecommunications as operators and receptionists. This positive movement bolstered their autonomy.
Around 1930, the telephone began to take on a shape that some of us are still familiar with today, with its larger base and cradle to hold the receiver. The rotary dial was prominent in its design until approximately 1960, when people started adapting the “touch-tone” dial pad. From there, designer phones became a status symbol, and people began using telephones on trains and planes, and even in their cars.
The first portable versions of the telephone were developed in the 1970s by Motorola employee, Martin Cooper. They were created with cellular technology, thus giving way to cellular or “cell” phones. Then came the first text message in 1992, which read “Merry Christmas,” and gave way to camera phones becoming available to the public in 2000. Today, we carry this formerly chunky technology in a tiny square that fits neatly in our pockets.
and even test out; the phone booth in the museum is still able to send and receive phone calls!
To delve into our full collection of historic artifacts, visit us at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, CT.