The First Ever Telephone Conversation
I bet you’re scrolling through this article on your phone.
You are, aren’t you?
It’s amazing what those little devices can do, right?
A lot of work has gone into them over the last 150 years, or so.
That doesn’t seem long ago at all.
Especially not for something we see as such a necessity.
Well, you’ve got Alexander Graham Bell to thank for that.
Not only did he invent the telephone, he also produced the first ever phone call.
But just who is Alexander Graham Bell?
And how did that first conversation go?
I’ve often wondered that myself.
I’m certain you have too.
I know you’re a phone nerd, just like me.
And don’t try and say you’re not, you wouldn’t be here otherwise.
Anyway, don’t worry.
I’ve actually spent the past 3.5 days researching all things phones.
And, not only am I going to answer all your questions on that conversation, I’ve even unearthed a goody you’ll definitely want to see.
Trust me, it’s good.
So, what are you waiting for?
Well, if I asked you to tell me who he was, what would you say?
I bet it would be something along the lines of, “oh, the guy who invented the telephone?!”
And, although that’s true, I promise you that there’s so much more to his legacy than that.
So, let’s start where it all began - the birth of Alexander Graham Bell.
Let me take you back to the year 1847.
On a typical windy Wednesday afternoon in Edinburgh, Scotland, a baby boy is born.
But he wasn’t just any little boy, he was destined to become a great inventor.
Although no one expected him to create something as revolutionary as a telephone, it was pretty clear - from the moment he was born - that he would do something great in relation to sound.
After all, from a young age, he had an obsession with both sound and public speaking.
Plus, I mean, hello?!
He was born into a family of speech instructors.
His granddad had a keen interest in speech disorders.
His dad devised a technique to teach people with hearing impairments to speak.
He even taught a hearing-impaired woman to play the piano.
And boy, did she played it well.
It was almost a given that Bell would work his way into the family business.
In fact, before he established himself as an inventor, he actually became a teacher for the hearing impaired himself.
Talk about the apple not falling far from the tree.
So, did his family’s careers influence his own?
But, perhaps one of the biggest impacts on his need to help the deaf, was the fact that his own mother was deaf herself.
And, like many other little boys, he loved his mother.
When he was still young, as her hearing deteriorated. he discovered a way to communicate with her
This early development into a teaching role certainly gave him advantages when he became a proper teacher later in his life.
He even opened up his own school, to show other teachers how to teach deaf children.
Teaching students from Northampton to Connecticut, Bell travelled the world during his time as an educator.
It’s pretty lucky that he was well travelled to be honest, as it was in America that he met Thomas A Watson - (I’ll tell you more about him in a bit).
In fact, it was when he was teaching in America that he began experimenting with the creation of the telephone, as a hobby on the side!
See, his understanding of sound really helped with both his teaching methods and his creation of the telephone.
Honestly, I believe the environment he was raised in and the fact his mother and wife were both deaf greatly influenced his need to discover more ways to communicate.
And, aren’t we lucky that he did?
Read More: The Biography Of Alexander Graham Bell
Try googling Thomas A Watson.
What did you find?
Yep, not much.
Even though he’s famed for his part in the invention of the telephone, there’s really not much information out there on him.
But, I didn’t want you to leave this section in the same way you’ve left other articles, still not knowing anything.
So, I put some extra research time into exploring the life of Thomas Watson, and here’s what I found.
In Salem, Massachusetts (no, he didn’t use witchcraft to get the phone to work) on January 18th, 1954, Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant was born - Thomas A Watson.
But he wasn’t just an assistant - he also had a big part in helping invent the telephone, and was even the recipient of the first-ever call on it!
But, that wasn’t where Watson’s story ended.
He took the royalties he earned for his help creating the telephone - yep, that’s how helpful he was - and invested them into becoming wealthy on his own account.
After a few failed careers - farming and a travelling Shakespearean actor, (I know, random) - he decided to give running his own machine shop a go.
And boy, was he lucky he did.
Not only did he receive a government contract for two destroyers, his shipyard- Fore River Ship & Engine Company - later became one of the major ones used in World War II.
And he also took part in a second ‘first’ telephone conversation with Alexander Graham Bell - but I’ll save those details for later.
Ever the optimist, Watson was convinced that these instances were “only the beginning of modern development in this method of communication.”
And, well, he was right, wasn't he?
There’s no limit to what we can do with our phones.
Well, apart from keeping them charged for more than two hours - thanks Apple.
Interestingly, he also claimed that, in the future, “man will speak to man by mental telepathy.”
Hmm, I wonder how long it will be before that’s commonplace.
Did you know that the first-ever telephone call that was made was only 143 years ago?
I mean, your great (okay, maybe great great) grandparents could have actually witnessed this!
Anyway, enough about who did or didn’t witness this event.
Let’s discuss what actually happened!
Well, on March 10th, 1876, not long after being invented, the very first telephone call was made.
Though this isn’t as widely publicised, Bell had actually spilled acid onto himself and, in a frantic state, called Watson through the phone for help - not knowing it would actually work.
And, in all their excitement, he actually forgot about the acid - silly!
Anyway, I bet you want to know what was said.
Okay, I’m kidding.
We all know the gist of what was said, but the exact wording of that very first sentence has faced a fair few discrepancies over the years.
Even by the two men it actually involved themselves.
In Bell’s very own journal, he claimed he phoned Watson and said:
“Mr Watson - come here - I want to see you.”
However, in Watson’s journal, recalling the same event, he decides that what was actually said was:
"Mr Watson - come here - I want you."
So, which man was correct?
Well, we’ll never really know - not unless someone decides to invent a time-machine anyway - as there isn’t actually a recording of the original message.
I know, gutting.
If only they’d have thought to invent the video camera first, it could have easily cleared all this up.
Anyway, their phrases are very similar, so I guess the slight wording difference really isn’t that important!
I mean, come on.
They created something that revolutionises the way we communicate - are we really going to get hung up on two words?
But, this is where the fun part comes in.
I do have something just as interesting to show you!
In 2013, a 130-year-old disc was discovered amongst audio recordings at the Smithsonian.
Thanks to the people who restored it, we can actually hear Alexander Graham Bell’s voice for the first time!
Read More: Alexander Graham Bell's Journal
Well, pretty much the rest of Bell's life was riddled with court cases.
Countless other inventors were claiming they created the phone first - and tried to sue him to prove it.
But, there cries fell on deaf ears, as it was decided that Bell should receive the patent for the invention.
Upon receiving it, he tried to sell the patent to Western Union - who showed no interest in the product.
In fact, they believed that the telephone was a one-hit-wonder and not worth the investment.
Well, Bell soon proved them wrong, didn’t he?
And, to top it all, he opened a company to rival them instead.
Which soon took over, and forced them to withdraw from the telephone market.
In fact, his company AT&T was so successful, it survived until the 1980s (before reforming as various micro-companies).
Yep, over 100 years after he invented the telephone, he was still making an impact on the world.
Ha! Jokes on you, Western Union!
But, his reign as king of technology didn’t end there.
Yep, you guessed it.
The telephone wasn’t Bell’s only invention.
In fact, he actually went on to invent many other things but, these three things are definitely the most note-worthy:
This was basically the first wireless phone ever created.
(Think of it as the parent of the fibre optics phone system.)
It worked by transmitting sound on a beam of light - I know, crazy!
Bell was incredibly proud of the photo-phone, deeming it the best invention yet.
In fact, he said that the photo-phone was “the greatest invention I have ever made, greater than the telephone!”
Though we can’t quite credit him as the inventor of the metal detector, he did play a strong hand in the development of it!
Sadly, the only reason he built a version of this, was because of a tragedy.
In 1881, President James Garfield was shot.
In an attempt to save his life, Bell built a metal detector to try and locate the bullet.
Unfortunately, because the detector was used while Garfield was lying on a metal-spring mattress, the machine couldn’t locate the bullet.
(As if you needed another reason to buy a memory-foam mattress).
Despite this, the metal detector worked perfectly!
You heard me right.
Bell invented an early form of the speedboat, called the HD-4.
At the time, in 1919, it actually set a world marine speed record of 70.86mph - incredible!
Read More: The History Of The Telephone
In 1915, Bell recreated his first-ever telephone conversation at the opening of the transcontinental telephone lines.
The entire event was pretty much missed by the public, as they decided to launch just before the opening of the Panama-Pacific Exposition - which was put together to celebrate San Francisco recovering from its 1906 earthquake.
But it still created a chance for both Bell and Watson to have a joke.
From New York, Bell called Watson and repeated his famous line:
“Mr Watson - come here - I want to see you.”
Ever the joker, Watson replied:
“Sorry Mr Bell, it will take me a week now.”
This was hilarious to everyone there, as Watson was almost 3000 miles away, in San Francisco.
There you have it.
The first ever telephone call.
Were you impressed?
And to think it all happened a little under 150 years ago.
And now, almost 150 years later, we’ve become reliant on our phones for communication.
Like Watson, Bell predicted a future where "friends converse with each other without leaving home."
And boy, was he right.
We could actually live our entire lives without ever leaving our bedrooms!
These tiny devices can do anything.
They can call anyone in the world.
Order you food without leaving the house.
Tell you the exact temperature of the room you’re sitting in right now ...and so much more!
Now, that really is a smart phone.