Beautifully engraved RARE SPECIMEN certificate from the American Telephone and Telegraph Company dated 1918. This historic document was printed by the American Banknote Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of a telephone between two allegorical women. This item is
over 89 years old.
Speaking through a wire - One tells that a few years after the introduction of the telegraph the operators entertained themselves, when there was not much to do, marking the compass of the folksongs of the day with its telegraphic manipulators. Many operators got to be so capable in this pastime, that they easily recognized the song by the tips of the receiver in the other end of the line. In 1854, Charles Bourseul, in France, suggested the idea of connecting a diaphragm to one of contacts of a telegraphic line, so that the vibrations of the diaphragm when opening and closing the circuit could produce intermittent currents in the line of the same frequency that the sound waves that acted on the diaphragm. He explained in addition that a similar diaphragm, placed near an electromagnet in the other end of the line, should vibrate by the magnetic attraction and reproduce the primitive sound. No practical application was derived from this idea; but in 1861, Philipp Reis (1834 - 1874), in Germany, constructed a device that made practically the same intention. Reis denominated to his instrument "telephone" and he was able to transmit musical sounds with great success; but the transmission of the language was imperfect in general. We will see in the later developments of the idea, that a small alteration on the telephone of Reis had made it work perfectly. In 1885 a monument to the memory of the inventor in his native city of Gelnhausen was elevated .
In 1874, Alexander Graham Bell, professor at the University of Boston, was interested in the study of the "multiplex" telegraph devices , a popular subject in that time, because of the fast development of the telegraphic industry. He conceived the idea to transmitting several dispatches by a single wire, by means of a certain number of pairs of steel springs. We will give a brief explanation of the Bell's harmonic telegraph , because this one represented an important link in the development of the telephone. When the manipulator in A is lowered, the spring of the transmitting station is attracted by the electromagnet; but when it moves it opens the circuit, so the spring will vibrate continuously with its natural frequency while the manipulator is low. As an intermittent current takes place in the telegraphic line with the same frequency that the one of the vibrant spring , another spring in B, the other end of the line, with the same frequency of vibration, would be attracted intermittently by the electromagnet .Therefore it is possible to be obtained that two similar springs vibrate to the unisonous in the ends of a telegraphic line. Bell thought that it was possible to connect to the ends of a simple telegraphic line a certain number of these units so that several dispatches could be sent at the same time , if each pair of springs were fit to a different vibration frequency. Although he constructed different models of these multiple telegraphs, he never obtained that they work satisfactorily.
The telephone, an accidental discovery - During these tests Bell commented to several friends the possibility of transmitting electrically the spoken word, and it is evident that he knew the attempts done by Reis in that field. It was advised to him, nevertheless, that he perseverase in the development of his harmonic telegraph; and the talking telephone invented by Bell owes partly its existence to an accidental discovery done during these telegraphic experiments. His mechanic, Thomas A. Watson, informed that he was in charge the June 2 , 1875 to make vibrate one of the spring in the transmitting station of a short line in an attic in Court street, in Boston, while the professor Bell was attaching a spring in another room in the other end of the line. Two parts that were put accidentally in contact by the vibration of the springs got to solder themselves by the heat of the spark that jumped between them, and Watson, treating to break this union pulled the springs several times.
Professor Bell hurried from the immediate room shouting: "What were you doing?", Bell had heard the exact sound of the emitting spring reproduced by the spring in the receiving end of the line.
He did not need more than a while to realize that the vibration of a sheet placed near an electromagnet connected in a closed circuit would make vary in intensity the current of the circuit and with the same frequency of the vibrations of the sheet. The professor Bell, just like his father was in the past, was an expert in the science of the sound, and he had dedicated many years to the problem of teaching to the deaf-mute people to speak quickly , so he saw here the possibility of replacing the springs by a diaphragm large enough to vibrate in agreement with the variations in the pressure of the air produced by the voice. After many experiments with diaphragms of different forms he made his transmitter and its receiver that transmitted the word completely well.
The patent for this invention was obtained on March 7, 1876, and turned out to be most valuable that has ever been obtained in any country. The apparatus was presented in the the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 , and it caused great sensation among those visitors who were able to appreciate its importance. Lord Kelvin, who, with Don Pedro of Brazil, was among those people , when hearing its mysterious repetition of the spoken word described the device as the most wonderful thing of America. In 1921 there were close to 13 million telephones connected to the lines of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, and half a million more without considering the property; that is to say, one out of eight people. Their circuits contained 40,000,000 kilometers of wire and their employees outnumbered the 231.000. The average of the dispatches transmitted daily in this network exceeded the 33.000.000 .
The telephone receiver model that was hanged in a hook used towards the first years of XX century (analogical, before the stage of the digital era in later years) was in essence the same one that Bell used in his primitive apparatus. The main difference was in the substitution of the sweet iron nucleus by a permanent magnet, change that Bell introduced in 1877. At the same time, a group of investigators at the Brown University made several reforms in the construction of the telephone, resulting a simpler and reduced form. With this perfected apparatus the professor Bell inaugurated a series of conferences in several cities, in which he described and he presented his telephone before great audiences.
The association of "Bell" patent proprietors known as Bell Telephone Company was then organized , and began to rent telephones for private use to 10 dollars per year. In 1878 the American Speaking Telephone Company was formed, subsidiary of the Western Union Telegraph Company, and proceeded to construct telephones of the Bell type, in open competition with the first company. An important improvement was made on the telephone almost simultaneously by Emile Berliner (1851-1929, born in Hanover, Germany) and Thomas Alva Edison (1847 - 1931, born in Milan, Ohio) , who, independently, indicated the substitution of a microphone as a transmitter instead of the electromagnetic transmitter of Bell. The microphone of Berliner contained a small prominence of metal maintained in close contact with a plate stick together to the center of the emitting diaphragm, whereas the microphone of Edison contained a similar coal contact with a metal plate. In both apparatuses, the changing pressure of the sound waves on the diaphragm produces a corresponding variation in the contact resistance in the microphone, making the current in the line to vary in intensity with the same frequency that the sound waves. Reis would have obtained a similar result if he had prevented his vibrant diaphragm to open the circuit.
The Western Union Telegraph Company bought the patent of Edison's microphone , and as it directed most of the telegraphic lines of the country it got to be a serious competitor of Bell.
In 1878, the Bell Company had adopted as a transmitter a perfected microphone that had been invented by Francis Blake, son, and filed a lawsuit against the Western Union Telegraph Company for violation of the primitive patent of Bell. In 1879 the Westem Union was required to retire of the telephone businesses, and the values of Bell Company, which had been offered previously to 50 dollars by action, with a few buyers, raised to value of up to 1,000 dollars per action. In 1879 it changed the name of the company by the National Bell Telephone Company, and in 1880 by the American Bell Telephone Company, in 1885, it adopted the name American Telephone and Telegraph Company.
In each reorganization new value emissions were made, that often multiplied the value of the primitive actions. It has been calculated that each primitive investment of 50 dollars in Bell Telephone Company had become towards 1930 in more than 100,000 dollars.
The enormous success of the Bell's telephone was not reached, nevertheless, without a continuous series of obstacles, as much technical as commercial ones. In its first years a single diaphragm served as transmitter and as a receiver, so that it was necessary to speak and to hear alternatively with the same diaphragm. The subscriber got to be confused very easily in this operation, until the point of which on several telephones a signboard got to be put saying: "Don't you speak with your ears nor you listen with your mouth".
After the invention of the hard drawn copper wire, carried out by Thomas B. Doolittle, a telephone line between Boston and New York was constructed and began to work in 1884. At this time the congestión of aerial wires in the city of New York got to be so great, that it was considered necessary to tend them in underground pipes. While these difficulties were overcome, the telephone company was forced to file lawsuit against several people by infraction of its basic patents. From the beginnings until 1896 it won more than 600 litigations, five of the even reached the Supreme Court.
The transmitting microphone was improved even more towards 1890 by A. C. White. White's microphone contained a small box full with hard coal grains , using a polished carbon block as a rear plate and a similar block in front against a mica disc, with the carbon granules in between. The sound waves, when hitting the transmitting diaphragm, force these particles to come near each other more or less . The resistance offered by this contact of coal grains varies much this way, according to the sound waves produced by the voice. This type of microphone was used soon in the transmitter of all later telephones.
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