There have been many landmarks in the history of communication. The first smudged record of ourselves left daubed on cave walls indicates a desire to pass on some message to others. Likewise, the first writings, and the first printed text.
Technology opened the way for other, faster communications. The telegram, radio transmissions, even signalling lamps used at sea. They are all ways of passing a message from one place to another, without having to run over there whilst remembering something (the modern Marathon is a recreation of just such an event, where a messenger is thought to have run from Marathon to Athens to deliver his message).
There have no doubt been countless times communications have changed the world, but what happens when we introduce the phenomenon of the phone? Here are some examples how a phone call has changed or made history:
1) Starting with the first phone call ever to take place would make logical sense. In 1876, Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell took part in the first human voice conversation ever conducted using electronic apparatus. His words – “Watson, come here! I want to see you” are now famous. Thomas Watson was a gifted engineer, experienced in working with electrical equipment. He assisted Bell in moving from a theoretical idea to a finalised working prototype. The call took place on March the 10th, 1876, in Bell’s Boston laboratory.
2) “One small step for man…” Everyone knows Armstrong’s legendary first words on the moon, and about the famous Apollo moon missions. In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans ever to stand on a surface other than planet Earth. But did you know they also received the first extra-terrestrial phone call? President Nixon called them, on the 20th of July, 1969. Nixon was seated in the Whitehouse Oval Office, Armstrong and Aldrin were in the ‘Eagle’ Lunar Module, on the moon, in an area known as the Sea of Tranquillity.
3) The iconic Red Phone Box is a defining signature of Britain, known all over the world. They were designed by London-born Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, in response to a competition! His design won, and the ubiquitous red boxes started to populate the country. First placed in London only, and weighing more than a tonne, it was a revised and lightened design which was rolled out nationally. The first call from a Red Phone Box was in 1924, with the simplified design we all know and love being introduced in 1935.
4) The world’s first handheld mobile phone made its first call on the 3rd of April, 1973. “Mobile” might be an exaggeration, as the device weighed over 2 kilos. However, it did manage to place a phone call when demonstrated by Martin Cooper, an engineer working for Motorola. Cooper came up with the very first concepts and designs, and project-steered the 10 year process of bringing the device to market. Designed to bring portable communications to the masses, Cooper was inspired by a communications gadget featured in the 1930’s cartoon strip “Dick Tracy”.
5) The world’s first long distance international call took place on the 25th of April, 1935. Two employees of American communications company AT&T conducted a conversation for 1 minute 30 seconds, using 5 separate telephone exchanges in 4 different countries. As operators were often involved in those days several actually joined in during the call! The conversation ranged from the weather, to the time in each country, and included the observation that over 23,000 miles of cable were required for that world-changing call to be connected. Amazingly, although the conversation between the two employees of AT&T travelled round the world through multiple counties and involved enough cable to go round the planet, the two men were no more that 50 feet apart. The call was transferred by cable from one phone, travelling east through San Francisco, continued to Amsterdam, reached London, then ended back where it started in New York.
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