March 17th, 1876. 29-year-old Alexander Graham Bell receives a patent for his revolutionary new invention–the telephone.
Bell was born Scottish, but lived in London with his father, Melville Bell. Melville developed a written system, Visible Speech, to teach speaking to the deaf. In the 1870s, the Bells moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where the younger Bell found work as a teacher at the Pemberton Avenue School for the deaf. He later married one of his students, Mabel Hubbard.
While in Boston, Bell became intrigued with the idea of transmitting speech over wires. Samuel F.B. Morse’s invention of the telegraph in 1843 had made nearly instantaneous communication possible between two distant points. The drawback of the telegraph, however, was that it still required hand-delivery of messages, and only one message could be transmitted at a time. Bell wanted to improve on this by creating a “harmonic telegraph,” a device that combined the telegraph and record player.
Bell’s patent filing beat a similar claim by Elisha Gray by only two hours. Not wanting to be shut out of the communications market, Western Union Telegraph Company employed Gray and fellow inventor Thomas A. Edison to develop their own telephone technology. Bell sued, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld Bell’s patent rights. In the years to come, the Bell Company withstood repeated legal challenges to emerge as the massive American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) and form the foundation of the modern telecommunications industry.
Soon after Alexander’s invention, telephone lines and telephones spread across the United States. They linked together parts of the country that had never met before, reinforcing the U.S.
Telephone line, circa 1997.
Due to America becoming a lead superpower, and the spread of Western culture, telephones became a major part of the advanced world. Phones influenced cultures by connecting remote parts of the world to others. They have become an integrated part of the underdeveloped world, in countries like Africa and India. Thanks to heirarchal diffusion from MDCs like America to LDCs, the globalization of phones increased.
A majority of phones are in countries with high industry and developed lifestyles, like North America, Europe, and China.