Thursday, January 4, 2007

The History of the Telephone

The invention of the telephone has a long intriguing and contested history. There exists great dispute over who deserves credit as the first inventor of the telephone.

According to the telephone is "An instrument that converts voice and other sound signals into a form that can be transmitted to remote locations and that receives and reconverts waves into sound signals." The word telephone originates from a combination of the Greek words "tele" meaning "afar, far off," and "phone" meaning ""sound, voice."

Some historians suggest Francis Bacon predicted the telephone in 1627 in his book New Utopia, where he described a long speaking tube. This might have been foreshadowing since not enough was known about the transmission of electricity to make the concept a reality in that era. It was not until 1854 that a French investigator Bourseul suggested that transmitting speech electrically over distance could be possible.

Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci is the earliest endorsed claim to the invention of a voice communication apparatus. Meucci constructed a form of telephone in 1857 as a way to connect his second-floor bedroom to his basement laboratory. In Italy, Meucci is recognized as the inventor of the telephone. The Enciclopedia Italiana di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti recognizes Meucci as the original founder of the telephone in 1860.

European physicists credit German inventor, Philip Reis, as the first to transmit a sentence by telephone in 1860. Reis demonstrated his device 16 years before Bell took out a patent for a similar device. In 1872, Prof Vanderwyde demonstrated Reis's device in New York where it was supposedly seen by Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. On March 22, 1876, a New York Times editorial entitled "The Telephone," endorsed Philip Reis as the first inventor.

Bell evolved ideas from Reis's device in his subsequent development of the telephone. Bell enlisted Thomas Watson, an experienced machinist, to assist him in his research. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell patented the electro-magnetic transmission of vocal sound by undulatory electric current.

Elisha Gray was another inventor who had been working on the development of the telephone. Gray submitted a request to the patent office the same day but was beaten by a matter of hours. No one has ever determined why both patents were filed on the same day. Some have suggested that Bell was aware of Gray's intention and rushed to thwart his rival.

The paper trail of Bell's patent application show substantial evidence that his lawyers Pollock or Bailey did acquire the basic ideas of Elisha Gray's liquid transmitter. On March 7, 1876, Bell subsequently incorporated this technology successfully into his apparatus to transmit "Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you".

The inventor of the telephone has been one of the most contested patents in United States history. Many lawsuits challenged the rightful owner of the patent but none were successful.

Today, there still exists great debate over the founder of the telephone. A 2002 a resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives, gave its endorsement of Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci as the originator of the telephone. HR 269 said Meucci "set up a rudimentary communication link in his Staten Island home that connected the basement with the first floor... he demonstrated his invention in 1860 and had a description of it published in New York 's Italian language newspaper.... and was unable to raise sufficient funds to pay his way through the patent application...".

The telephone is the most vital communication tool of our world. Telecom has become a giant industry that provides solutions far above what Meucci, Reis, Gray or Bell ever envisioned. If not for the efforts of these great inventors there would be no telephones, facsimile machines, personal devices, computers or the Internet. Today most people cannot phantom such a primitive existence. Communication is the link that allows our world to function at its torrid pace. The telephone is the single most significant invention in the modern era bringing the world closer together.

Contributed by: Rito Salomone, Resource Software International Ltd. (RSI),