When the phone rings, you can never be sure whether you will be picking up a call to someone trying to sell you a printer or to an important client with an urgent requirement.
That’s why it is so important to pick up the phone – a phone call could be life-changing for your business!
However, we know that it can be near impossible to answer every incoming business call when you operate on your own or as part of a small team.
To highlight the significance of answering phone calls, we’re creating a blog series that focuses on important phone calls that have made their mark on history. So, where better to start than with the first ever phone call.
Who invented the telephone?
Alexander Graham Bell is credited with inventing the telephone. Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on the 3rd of March in 1847. He became an expert in sound, which subsequently led him to pursue a career within the field as an inventor, scientist and teacher.
It is likely that Bell’s interest in sound was influenced by his parents as his mother was almost completely deaf and his father taught deaf students. In his early career, Bell’s expertise enabled him, like his father, to become a teacher to deaf students at several schools in both the United Kingdom and America.
In 1871, while teaching, Bell began researching methods of transmitting multiple sounds at the same time over one wire. This research turned into development, which ultimately led to Bell’s invention of the harmonic telephone in 1874. A few years later, on the 14th of February 1876, Bell filed a patent for the harmonic telephone with the addition of phonetic sound. The patent described in detail his ideas and methods on transmitting human voices over a singular wire.
Who actually invented the telephone?
Although Alexander Graham Bell is credited with inventing the telephone, it is still widely debated who actually should be credited. During the 1870’s, Bell was not the only one to be working on the transmission of multiple messages through a singular wire. Other scientists, such as American inventor Elesha Gray and Italian inventor Antonio Meucci were also in the race to invent the telephone.
The race to invent the telephone between Gray and Bell was so close that there is much controversary surrounding who should be credited. In 1874, like Bell, Gray developed a harmonic telephone that could transmit tones but could not yet transmit intelligible speech. However, a few years later in 1876, Gray illustrated a diagram of the transmission of human speech over a singular wire via a telephone device within his notebook.
A few days later, Gray’s lawyers filed a patent. The race was so close that Gray actually filed his caveat patent on the same day as Bell, the 14th of February. Bell’s lawyers filed the application and included detailed description of the use and methods of the telephone for transmitting human speech. The patent office began interference proceedings to investigate who was actually the first to invent the telephone. However, Bell’s patent application was accepted and he was credited as the inventor the telephone. It remains unknown who first filed the patent or what happened in the patent office, which is why much speculation still surrounds the matter.
Italian inventor Antonio Meucci also has a rightful claim to the invention of the telephone. In 1856, Meucci demonstrated the electromagnetic transmission of his own voice, for which he filed a patent. However, the patent was not renewed in 1874, creating an entry for other inventors to file a patent and claim the title as the inventor of the telephone. It is assumed that Meucci was unable to file for a renewal due to the inability to pay. So, although Bell is officially credited as the inventor of the telephone, within Italy, Meucci is credited as the official inventor.
The first ever telephone call
As you may expect, the first ever words to be spoken on the telephone was by its credited inventor – Bell.
On the 10th of March in 1876, a few days after receiving his patent, Bell telephoned his assistant Thomas Watson, summoning him from the other room within his Boston home. The first words that were spoken on the telephone were by Bell, who said to Watson “Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you.”
A short and sweet phone call which was crackly but intelligible. Although the actual words spoken have little significant meaning and considering the distance between Bell and Watson, could have been communicated by raising his voice to a level loud enough to travel through the walls, this phone call goes down as one of the most historical phone calls in history!
The success of the telephone
In 1878, Bell was invited to demonstrate the telephone to Queen Victoria. Also in the same year, the Telephone Company Ltd was formed to market and sell Bell’s telephone throughout the United Kingdom. After the initial success of the telephone, Bell envisioned a future to his father where “friends [could] converse with each other without leaving home.” This vision came to life in the early 20th century when telephones were being installed in wealthier individuals homes. As time progressed throughout the 20th century, more and more homes were installing telephones which led to 35% of households owning a telephone in 1970. This figure skyrocketed and by 2018, around 85% of households owned a telephone, highlighting the success and popularity of Bell’s invention.
We know the importance of business calls. Our virtual receptionists can act as your front-of-house, answering calls on your behalf, forwarding them to your landline, mobile number or voicemail, taking messages or outside of working hours, rerouting calls to a number of your choice. You might not be expecting a call quite of such magnitude as that made in 1876 by Bell to Watson, but failure to answer an important business call could be critical.
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