From the telephone to the modern day communication systems, communication by definition is a process through which information is exchanged between two or more people. The human is not the only race to walk the earth with the capability to communicate with each other as it is known that animals too have their unique methods for communication purposes. Since human developed this process from almost nothing to a very complex system, it will be more appropriate to discuss the communication between human only.
Communication dates back to the beginning of life on earth is about the exchange of information developed from the mere body language to the verbal communication. Verbal communication led to the development of written script. This simple process, specifically during the 19th and the 20th century, underwent significant transformations and developments into becoming a highly sophisticated, well-spread and effective system. Some major inventions contributed heavily to the development of the communication process. Such inventions include the telephone, television, computer and the internet. This essay reviews the invention of the telephone and briefly discusses the biography of the inventor of the great invention, Alexander Graham Bell (Communication).
A brief biography
Alexander Graham Bell was born on the 3rd of March, 1847 to Professor Alexander Melville Bell and mother Eliza Grace. Bell’s family was very well-reputed in the fields of elocution and speech recognition. He had two brothers namely Melville James Bell and Edward Charles Bell. Both his brothers and Bell himself was taught the family profession thoroughly. However, his brothers passed away due to tuberculosis. Bell’s family included two deaf members, his mother and later his wife. Bell attended two years at Edinburgh’s Royal High School and one year at a private school. He was principally self-taught and learned a vast majority of things from his family.
Graham Bell showed signs of genius from an early age. While still a child, Bell started collecting botanical specimens and experimenting. His first invention was a simple dehusking machine at his best friend’s father’s flour mill. As a result, his friend’s father gave both the boys a workshop to experiment in. Bell also displayed immense love for art, music and nature. He was a self taught pianist and mastered the art of playing the piano. Bell was also well known amongst his family for his mimicry and would often entertain guests.
As a teacher in some schools, Bell started assisting his father till 1868. However, after the catastrophic death of his elder brother, Bell had to shift his family to Canada. He continued assisting his father by lecturing and demonstrating Visible Speech, a system for teaching communication to the deaf. During this period, Bell also continued to experiment with sound.
Bell was awarded several prizes including the Volta prize by the French government which earned him enough money to set up a laboratory in Washington. Bell’s teammates at the Volta Laboratory were Charles Summer and his cousin Chichester Bell. Bell later set up another laboratory near his estate where he conducted new experiments and taught young engineers about his works and ideas.
Bell’s first novelty was the Photophone. It was an instrument that made it possible to transit sound on light. The photophone was developed by Bell and his teammate, Charles Summer. The first successful experiment of the photophone was conducted in 1881 when a message was transmitted over a distance of 200 yards from a building to another. Later on, Bell claimed the photophone to be his greatest innovation, even greater than the telephone. The invention of photophone has led to innovation and development of fiber optics and lasers used for communication in the modern times.
In response to the tragedy of the death of his son, Bell designed a metal jacket that was designed to help in breathing for people suffering from problems related to respiration, the disorder Bell’s son suffered and died from.
It was Bell’s respect and care for his fellow men that several inventions facilitating people with medical disorders were credited to his name. Bell is lesser known for his experimentation with the energy recycling procedures and the removal of salt from salty waters.
During 1890s, Bell started experiments with kites and flying objects as by that time, he had taken up the challenge of flight. The Wright Brothers became the pioneers of flying when they conducted the experiment of manned flight (Alexander Graham Bell ).
Alexander Graham Bell and the deaf
Alexander Graham Bell had been well acquainted with deaf almost all of his life. During his childhood, his mother’s hearing became impaired which led him to introduce a sign language with his mother. Moreover, he also developed a technique for speaking into his mother’s forehead, which would allow, his voice to be heard with clarity. This concern for his mother led Bell to study acoustics.
However, the first breakthrough in this field came when Bell started working with his father. Since his father was a renowned worker in the field of communication with the deaf, Bell was primarily taught by his father. After moving to Canada, Bell’s father received numerous invitations for lecturing and demonstrating his work. However, on several occasions, he refused the offer in favor of his son. This provided a chance for Bell to learn and establish his reputation in the educational world. After only a few lectures, Bell started receiving numerous offers and he continued this practice while still helping his father.
After attending to several universities and colleges, Bell opened his own school in Boston in the year 1872. This was Bell’s first step towards teaching the deaf. He taught his father’s system and the school gained popularity with his first class consisting of 30 students.
Due to his deep rooted familiarity with the deaf, Bell always believed that the deaf could be taught to speak. This would result in the complete elimination of the sign language. Bell always had a soft corner for the deaf and worked vigorously hard to serve them in the best possible way (Alexander Graham Bell ).
The telephone is and deserves to be named amongst the greatest inventions of man. The ease of communication created by the telephone has led to major developments in the field of communication since the day the historic invention came into being. Moreover, the telephone has been the cornerstone of more complex inventions and modifications of the modes of communications.
Bell continued his experimentation with different devices and ideas along with his passion for teaching. By 1874, Bell’s work on the harmonic telegraph had taken up a solid shape and was a huge success. Living in Canada, Bell experimented with a phonautograph. This machine led Bell to think that it would be possible to generate undulating electrical currents that communicate with sound waves.
Since the telegraphic communication was at its peak during this period, Bell was constantly trying to invent a telegraph which could send multiple telegraph messages on the same line. Bell’s closest competitors, Elisha Gray and Thomas Edison were also striving hard to discover something similar.
However, due to his thirst for experimenting, Bell went a step further and thought of adding the human voice to the telegraphic messages being sent. This led Bell to a famous scientist, Joseph Henry. Although, the meeting with Joseph Henry did not yield any substantial knowledge for Bell, it sparked a never-ending motivation to create what he had thought. With his investors, Sanders and Hubbard, ready to finance this project, Bell was determined to achieve this before his competitors. The lack of equipment and ability to construct models was alleviated by a skilled and experienced electrical designer Thomas. A. Watson. The unexpected meeting of Bell and Watson led them to becoming long term partners.
Elisha Gray, a competitor of Bell, also designed devices for the transmission of speech through electric signals which led the inventor to claim himself as the original inventor of the telephone. Both the inventors, Bell and Gray, fought for a patent for their inventions which led the two men to the courtroom to fight a legal conflict. Ultimately, Bell won the case and was granted patent for his remarkable invention.
Bell attempted to develop the telegraph into a more effective and speedy communication device. This attempt led Bell to invent the telephone.
The telegraph had been in use for the last 3 decades before Bell started his experiments related to electrical signals. The telegraph though an effective instrument for communication had some drawbacks which later were annulled by the invention of the telephone. The telegraph could only transmit one message at a particular time. This instrument consumed more time and prevented efficient communication.
Bell, through his understanding of sound and electric signals, was able to infer the likelihood of sending and receiving numerous messages at a particular time through the same wires. Bell introduced the idea of transmitting several messages at the same time through his principle of sending simultaneous messages. According to this principle of Bell, simultaneous signals could be transmitted at a time if the pitch of the signals differed from each other. This development is known as the ‘Harmonic telegraph’.
Bell informed his future father in law, Gardiner Hubbard, about the likelihood of a device enabling multiple messages to be communicated. Hubbard provided finance to Bell in support of his research also to dismantle the monopolistic power of the Western Union Telegraph Company. It was, till then, not known to Hubbard that Bell had developed the idea of a device that would make electrical communication possible.
Bell had hired Thomas Watson as his assistant who was an electrician who worked closely with Bell on his project. By 1875, the duo consisting of Bell and Watson had made it possible to bring the idea of a telephone to life. The team of Bell and Watson had concluded that different tones could vary the power of the electrical current in wires. A transmitter was required to help the duo build the device. The device needed a casing which could vary the electronic current. Also, a receiver was required to help reproduce such disparity in an audible form.
In 1875, Bell discovered that sound could be heard through a metal wire. The very first sound that Bell discovered was that of a clock spring.
In March of 1876, Bell accomplished his mission with the invention of the telephone. The telegraph, known to the world for the last three decades, lost its significance as the telephone offered much more convenience, multiplicity and efficiency in communication. Bell mentioned, in his notes, that the very first message he communicated via his remarkable new invention addressed his assistant Thomas Watson in the room next to the one in which Bell was experimenting (Bellis).
Impact of the invention of the telephone
The invention of the telephone impacted the entire world soon after its introduction. Both time and cost were saved as communication became more and more effective with the passage of time. Businesses found the telephone to be a problem solving instrument as it made transactions speedy and also reduced costs for businesses. Later on the telephone networks spread around the entire globe connecting millions of people.
The telephone, somehow, triggered the struggle for innovation, efficiency and improvement in the communication systems. As the telephone became more and more accessible to the masses, more and more interaction resulted between people from different locations. Businesses enjoyed a major advantage with the use of the telephone as then they were able to explore many of the unexplored markets in different parts of the world.
The telephone proved to be a source of help for the governments, military forces and other institutions in maintaining law and order in the countries and keeping more up to date information about their respective subjects.
The increasing use of the telephone led other inventors and specialists to the competitive field of mass communication and technology. The modern day cell phone or mobile phone could not come into being without the inspiration from Bell’s telephone.
Internet became known to the world in the 1980s and 1990s. The internet was the result of the specialists trying to improve the already widespread telephone and mail networks
The modern technology of today is capable of producing new and better communication devices at rapid rates. There are hundreds of millions of cell or mobile phone users inhabiting planet Earth today. The telephone is, even today, accessible to almost everyone.
The benefits derived from the use of the telephone are too many to mention in this short piece of research but by any measure, the telephone deserves to be named amongst the most important and noteworthy inventions man has ever come up with.
Alexander Graham Bell is also accredited with some other inventions along with the telephone, for which he is popularly known. This fact is obvious from the 18 patents granted to him along with 12 patents granted in collaboration with other partners. As discussed earlier, Bell’s genius had no boundaries. His inventions consisted of the photophone, phonograph, a metal jacket to assist breathing, device for locating icebergs and findings on alternative fuel.
One of the major inventions, after the telephone, of Graham Bell was the metal detector. This device was primarily used to detect elements of metal in a human body. This was functional if a person was shot and was used to detect and locate the bullet. This device came into existence when the US President James Garfield was shot. Surgeons needed a way to find the assassin's bullet, however, due to some complications; the device was unable to do so (Biography).
Alexander Graham Bell passed away on the 2nd of August, 1922 due to complex diabetes which he suffered from. Bell had also been a patient of a peculiar kind of anemia. Bell believed that a person cannot suffer from any kind of mental problems if he or she kept on observing things and remembered their observations. In addition to the aforementioned belief of Alexander Graham Bell, he also emphasized on the significance of asking questions and searching for answers about things one sees or experiences in life. The remarkable inventor passed away during the 75th year of his life and left behind his invention for the world to use, develop and remember his name as one of the most celebrated inventors in the history of mankind.