THE HISTORY OF THE TELEPHONE SYSTEM

(This page tells the first stages in the development of the Telephone System.

It will be progressively extended to cover the full story.)

Introduction

Today, we are all familiar with the Telephone as a means of communicating with one another.

But, it was only about 125 years ago that the telephone was invented.
The name comes from two words,- tele, meaning 'at a distance' and 'phonic' referring to 'sound'.

A telephone is a device that enables us to hear sound at a distance, just as television enables us to see at a distance.


We need to go back to about 1600 when the characteristic effects of electricity were being discovered. A man called Gilbert published the first authoritative work on magnetism and electricity from which many subsequent discoveries were made. Fifty years later the first machine to generate electricity was built, but it was not until about 1800 that the battery was invented by Volta. This steady source of electricity led eventually to the discovery by Oersted of the magnetic effect of an electric current. In 1819 he found that a current passing through a wire placed above a compass needle would deflect the needle.

Telegraphy

The first message or 'telegram' sent by a telegraph using electromagnetism was in 1833. Several different models were produced by two Englishmen, Cooke and Wheatstone. Electric currents passed down wires deflected magnetic needles which pointed to the letters arranged on a panel.

At thetime the latest transport system, the steam railway, took up the electric telegraph in 1838 as a way of sending messages from one station to another about the movement of trains.

In 1839 the world's first commercial telegraph line linked Paddington ( London) and West Drayton, some 15 miles along the Great Western Railway. This could be seen by the public and they could send their own telegrams at some cost.

Meanwhile Samuel Morse, who invented the Morse Code, sent a message some 40 miles from Washington to Baltimore in the USA. Telegraphy grew slowly as a means of communicating over a distance.