After nearly 200 years of prototypes, patents and practice, the first telephone was invented in 1876. Naturally such a technological development, one which still shapes the way we live and communicate today, was about to create quite the buzz.
Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant Thomas Watson’s breakthrough invention was patented and then put into practice. Charles Williams, a manufacturer of telegraph and electrical supplies was the first person to have a telephone number, (which was 1 in case you were wondering…)
His shop in Somerville, Massachusetts was the site of the invention of the phone as well as many other early developments of inventions such as burglar alarms and doorbells. In 1877 he became the first person in the world to have a phone line, connecting his house with his office, with the phone number 2!
Bell worked as a speech therapist and eventually married one of his patients, Mabel Greene Hubbard. Mabel was the daughter of Gardiner Greene Hubbard who formed the Bell Telephone company which used Charles Williams’ shop as the site to produce phones under the supervision of Watson.
Upon installing the first phone line in 1877, Bell is said to have written to his wife about the quality of their invention “The articulation was simply perfect … The first telephone line has now been erected and the telephone is in practical use!”
By the end of 1877 there were 3000 phones in use and word was continuing to spread fast. Bell’s ruthless approach to business meant he created a monopoly, ridding any competition he faced. In the same year Thomas Edison had invented a superior transmitter that was to rival Bell, backed by The Weston Union and their new American Speaking Telephone Company. Edison’s invention infringed on the patents which Bell had for his invention.
Over the next year the amount of phones in use increased to 10,000 and the switch board was introduced in 1878. In retaliation to Edison’s button transmitter, Bell worked with Francis Blake and Emile Berliner to produce a superior instrument. In 1879, the year after a lawsuit had been filed against them by the Bell Company, Western Union surrendered all patents and their huge network of 56,000 phones and a deal was stuck that they’d receive 20% of rentals until Bell’s patents ran out. Over the next twenty years 600 lawsuits would be filed about infringements to Bell’s invention – he won every single one.
With this agreement came a new venture for Bell, The American Bell Telephone Company.
The introduction of the telephone was about to get people talking.