Tuesday 3 July 2012: Scottish innovation V
In March of 1876, the U.S Patent Office granted a patent to Alexander Graham Bell for an apparatus and method of transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically by causing electrical undulations, similar to the vibrations of the air caused by the spoken word. It was one of the most influential inventions of our time, and was the defining moment of his remarkable life that started in Edinburgh in 1847.
As a youngster, his natural curiosity led him to countless experiments and inventions but as a young adult, it was his preoccupation with his mother's steady descent into a world of deafness that led him to study acoustics.
His work with the deaf prompted his work with the harmonic telegraph and by 1874, telegraph message traffic was expanding so rapidly that the need for another method of communication became clear. Bell lacked basic knowledge of electricity and the means to produce working prototypes for his ideas but a chance meeting with Thomas Watson the same year changed that. Their collaboration led to advances in a new concept: acoustic telegraphy.
Three days after his patent was issued, on March 10, 1876, Bell spoke the famous sentence to Thomas Watson in an adjoining room, who heard: "Mr. Watson-come here-I want to see you", quite clearly. Following years of development and patent wars, investment and public demonstrations to gain support for his invention, The Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877.
In January 1915, Alexander Graham Bell made the first ceremonial transcontinental telephone call from New York to San Francisco to his former partner Thomas Watson.
Alright. So he ditched his country of birth in favor of first Canada and then the USA but the fact remains he was born a Scot and his life was truly fascinating; the telephone is but one of his numerous inventions. What would he possibly think if he could see where phone technology has gone in the ninety years since his death? What would he think of smart phones? And would he be flabbergasted if I told him that I don't always pick up the phone when it rings because I have caller ID?