The Telecommunications Industry

By Susan E. McMaster | Go to book overview

1

The Invention and Development of the Telephone and the Telephone Network, 1875–1913

The telegraph was the means by which people communicated over long distances in the 1800s when they wanted their messages to be relayed quickly. The telegraph was limited to carrying only one or two messages at a time, however, and so research was conducted to expand the number of messages that could be carried simultaneously. Elisha Gray, an electrician for Western Electric, then partially a subsidiary of Western Union, spent a great deal of time during the early 1870s developing a sophisticated system for multiple transmissions based on the ability to carry various musical pitches at the same time. While he was performing his experiments, he determined that the apparatus could be used for transmitting speech as well as musical tones. It was on this apparatus that Gray filed his application for a patent on February 17, 1876.

Alexander Graham Bell, a teacher of speech to the deaf, was also experimenting with musical telegraphs at the time. Bell had very limited financial resources. With financial backing from Thomas Sanders and Gardiner Hubbard, the fathers of two of his deaf students, Bell was able to spend time on his research. Although Bell had made extensive studies of sound patterns for his work with the deaf, he lacked the financing and technical expertise in electricity to fully develop his studies. From his studies, Bell ultimately found that the transmission of speech would become a more significant invention than the musical telegraph. Thus he focused his research on trying to transmit speech despite his backers’ desire that he focus on the telegraph.

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