Thursday marks the 137th anniversary of Alexander Graham Bell’s patent on the telephone.
The idea of transmitting sound over wire wasn’t new. The idea of using that sound to communicate via Morse code or other means had been around for generations.
But the idea that a voice could be transmitted over wire and received and perceived as a vocal communication at the other end of a wire was revolutionary.
This story has a darker side, though. Bell beat Elisha Gray to the patent office by mere hours. Gray is believed to have been a true inventor of the device. But he lost out to Bell and history has basically forgotten him.
But even though his life maintained a lower profile than Bell’s, Gray did invent the music synthesizer and received 69 other patents all while co-founding the Western Electric Manufacturing Company.
Back to Bell, you have to wonder what a man who had just lived through the Civil War and the abolition of slavery expected from this new invention.
There were no lines able to transmit his new technology. There were no devices in stores to receive the transmission if there would have been.
So he can tell his assistant, “Mr. Watson, come here, I need you” but there isn’t a lot of profit built into that.
But that’s why I love people with vision. I have limited vision. My ability tends to be in the area of reinvention. In some cases, I can take a system and improve it. I know how to work hard and make an existing system work better.
But when that system doesn’t already exist, I may not be the best person to call for help.
But Bell and those he worked with envisioned people across the country talking to each other on devices in their living rooms.
Lines were run, devices were developed and sold and before long, Elvis had a phone in his bathroom.
The most incredible thing about the patent of the telephone is that less than 100 years later a man made the first public cell phone call.
It has been 40 years since that first call made from a phone without wires.
In that time, we have had phones we carried in bags and plugged into our cars. We had really cool people with cars so fancy that they had their own fax machines.
Then Zach Morris brought us his mega-Phone on Saved by the Bell and Will Ferrell’s character Mugatu, carried a thumbnail sized cell phone in the movie Zoolander.
Less than 140 years after Bell received the first patent for a modern telephone, the modern telephone is becoming a relic as many people are abandoning landlines for their mobile phones. Of course a more recent development is that people are abandoning their computers for those same devices.
Technology is moving fast and accelerating. Communication for business and recreation are primary drivers of today’s economy and society.
Pursue your vision. Imagine the scenario you want to create and give your vision a rudimentary beginning.
If we can go from an interoffice request to come in here to watching videos on Youtube on a pocket-sized device in less than 140 years, who knows where your vision could take us?
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org