We Didn't Always Have Cell Phones
Alexandar Graham Bell
Depending on how old you are you may remember a cartoon character called Dick Tracy talking into his watch or years later a TV character named Maxwell Smart answering his shoe...no matter, the fascination we've had with phones started back in 1870 when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. (Though their was a legal battle with one Elisha Gray who also developed a telephone. Bell won the battle and patented the first telephone.)
I digress. It was actually in 1875 that the first voice was transmitted over this wired telephone. So began the history of the telephone. Actually Bell invented the telephone as a communication device to help his hearing impaired family communicate. In 1876 Bell signed his patent application for the telephone and in March 1876 the patent was granted. Bell filed for and was granted more patents as he refined the development of the telephone, and so began the love affair with the telephone.
The Bell Telephone Company was founded in 1877. At the start of the 1900s the Bell Company had 800,000 phones in service while independent companies had 600,000. In 1915 the Bell Company installed the first coast to coast telephone line. The parent company of the Bell Company became AT&T.
In the 1920s the candlestick phone and desk phone were introduced. The most popular phones among collectors are those made in the 1920s. Phones now had a rotary dial! The poor candlestick phone, which I personally think is cool, was phased out by the end of the 1920s. I guess the desk phone was more practical and easier to use.
In a 1920s ad, AT&T stated, "All other means of communication are cold and colorless in comparison...The Bell System has provided this wonderful faculty for all the people"
Along comes the 1930s and that desk phone were now more common. No more bells on the wall to tell you your phone was ringing. That mighty desk phone had bells built in! Kids today have probably never seen that old, beloved black phone we all knew and loved for decades. However, in the 1920s and 1930s it was mostly rich people who owned these phones. Oh, and phone numbers were short, sometimes only four numbers or an exchange and number like PI-304. The dial now enabled people to dial phone numbers without having to contact the operator first, but that depended on where they lived and what services were available.
Even up to the 1950s and 1960s there were still areas of the country where it was necessary for the operator to help you connect your call and many people were on a party line. That meant you shared your line with other 'parties' on your road. You could pick up your phone and hear your neighbor's conversations...sometimes it was fun to listen, but not when they were listening to you. There were times if you had to make an emergency call, you'd get on the phone and ask the person talking to please get off the phone so you could use it. The operators actually came in handy because they knew the numbers you were trying to reach and if not, they had them at their finger tips.
One of Lily Tomlin's famous characterizations was a telephone operator, based on those old time operators. Who doesn't remember Lilly's line, "One ringy dingy, two ringy dingys..."
1920 to 1969
- 7 March 1926: First transatlantic telephone call, from London to New York.
- 7 January 1927: Transatlantic telephone service inaugurated.
- 7 April 1927: world's firstvideophonecall via an electro-mechanical AT&T unit, from Washington, D.C. to New York City, by then-Commerce SecretaryHerbert Hoover.
- 28 May 1927:Rotary dialservice was started from mid night.
- 1935: first telephone call around the world.
- 1941:Multi-frequencydialing introduced for operators inBaltimore, Maryland
- 1946: National Numbering Plan (area codes)
- 1946: first commercialmobile phonecall
- 1946:Bell Labsdevelops thegermaniumpoint-contact transistor
- 1947: December,W. Rae YoungandDouglas H. Ring,Bell Labsengineers, proposed hexagonal cells for mobile phones.
- 1948: Phil Porter, a Bell Labs engineer, proposed that cell towers be at the corners of the hexagons rather than the centers and have directional antennas pointing in 3 directions.
- 1951:Direct Distance Dialing(DDD) first offered atEnglewood, New Jersey, to 11 selected major cities across the United States; this service grew rapidly across major cities during the 1950s
- 1955: the laying of trans-Atlantic cableTAT-1began - 36 circuits, later increased to 48 by reducing the bandwidth from 4 kHz to 3 kHz
- 1958:Modemsused for direct connection via voice phone lines
- 1960s:Bell Labsdeveloped the electronics forcellular phones
- 1961:Touch-tonereleased to public on trial basis
- 1962:T-1service inSkokie, Illinois
- 1963: first publicly availablepush-button telephonewas released, by Bell Systems/Western Electric, in the towns ofCarnegieandGreensburg, Pennsylvania.
- 1965: first geosynchronous communicationssatellite- 240 circuits or one TV signal
Right around the same time, 1945 to be exact, yes I said 1945, the first mobile-radio-telephone service was established but it wasn't until 1956 that the first real car phone appeared on the scene. The phones used at the time were big and bulky. Can you see where these two phones, the house phone and the car phone are both on the scene and leading to what we know today?
The first 'handheld' mobile phone was invented in 1973 but weighed 2.5 pounds and took 10 hours to recharge! Until the 1990s 'cell phones' were working on a 1G network using analog transmissions to limited air space; towers were few and far between so transmissions were limited. In 1990 transmission switched to digital. People began to use cell phones and 2G technology was born coupled with texting...yes texting way back in 1990. In 2001 the 3G network was introduced. I think you know the rest. The 3G network took us to where we are today with a newly introduced 4G network. So the network evolved allowing us to use those cell phones anywhere, anytime. We weren't limited to certain areas or talk times anymore
The evolution in the design of the cell phone itself began in the 1980s. Looking at the photos to the right you can see the evolution of the cell phone over twenty years. The phones got smaller and more and more people began to use them. As more people used them they gained in popularity causing further growth. I d on't have to tell you where cell phone growth has gone, I would say it's gone through the roof. Not only do you want a cell phone but many places are making it as if you have to have a cell phone. Not only can you do your banking on your cell phone but now you can use your cell phone to photograph a check for deposit and it will be deposited right away! Many stores offer extra discounts that can be read only by your cell phone...and the list goes on!
There isn't a kid today who can live without their cell phone and yet not so long ago we were tethered to our phones with twenty foot cords so we could walk around while we were talking on the phone. Of course we were amazed and thrilled when the cordless phone hit the market. All these wireless technologies (including the cell phone) are based on radio frequencies but I did not detail that as I really didn't want this to be overly technical. Imagine, a phone you could use anywhere in the house without a wire attached! At the time this was better than sliced bread. It was funny to be talking on your cordless phone and hear your neighbor down the street talking to her husband on the phone, it hearkened back to the days of party lines! Of course it was all a matter of radio frequencies and you had to remember if you could hear your neighbor talking on the phone chances are he could hear you too!
Today, it is so common nothing else is remembered or thought of. Show a kid today a rotary phone and they'll probably ask what it is. A house phone with wires? You're kidding! No cell phones? How did you live?
A myriad of articles have been written about kids not having cell phones and actually going to their friend's house to talk to them. A time when there was no texting, only talking, when you spent your time running around with your friends outdoors till dark instead of sitting next to them and texting. Not having cell phones was probably not such a bad thing for kids but progress and technology never stop.
Cell phones are definitely hear to stay. Today, it's not so funny to think of Maxwell Smart talking into his shoe. What about Dick Tracy? I have a feeling his wristwatch phone might not be too far off.
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