Timeline of the telephone

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This timeline of the telephone covers landline, radio, and cellular telephony technologies and provides many important dates in the history of the telephone.

Charles Bourseul
Johann Philipp Reis
Elisha Gray
Thomas Edison
Alexander Graham Bell
Thomas Augustus Watson
Tivadar Puskás
Emile Berliner
Charles Sumner Tainter
Theodore Newton Vail

1667 to 1875[edit]

  • 1667: Robert Hooke creates an acoustic string telephone that conveys sounds over a taut extended wire by mechanical vibrations.[1][2]
  • 1844: Innocenzo Manzetti first suggests the idea of an electric "speaking telegraph", or telephone.
  • 1849: Antonio Meucci demonstrates a communicating device to individuals in Havana. It is disputed that this is an electromagnetic telephone, but it is said to involve direct transmission of electricity into the user's body.
  • 1854: Charles Bourseul publishes a description of a make-and-break telephone transmitter and receiver in L'Illustration, (Paris) but does not construct a working instrument.
  • 1854: Meucci demonstrates an electric voice-operated device in New York, but it is not clear what kind of device he demonstrated.
  • 1860: Johann Philipp Reis of Germany demonstrates a make-and-break transmitter after the design of Bourseul and a knitting-needle receiver. Witnesses said they heard human voices being transmitted.
  • 1861: Johann Philipp Reis transfers voice electrically over a distance of 340 feet with his Reis telephone. To prove that speech can be recognized successfully at the receiving end, he uses the phrase "The horse does not eat cucumber salad" as an example because this phrase is hard to understand acoustically in German.
  • 1864: In an attempt to give his musical automaton a voice, Innocenzo Manzetti invents the 'speaking telegraph'. He shows no interest in patenting his device, but it is reported in newspapers.
  • 1865: Meucci reads of Manzetti's invention and writes to the editors of two newspapers claiming priority and quoting his first experiment in 1849. He writes "I do not wish to deny Mr. Manzetti his invention, I only wish to observe that two thoughts could be found to contain the same discovery, and that by uniting the two ideas one can more easily reach the certainty about a thing this important."
  • 1871: Meucci files a patent caveat (a statement of intention to file a patent application)[3] for a Sound Telegraph, but it does not describe an electromagnetic telephone.
  • 1872: Elisha Gray founds the Western Electric Manufacturing Company.
  • 1872: Professor Vanderwyde demonstrates Reis's telephone in New York.
  • July 1873: Thomas Edison notes varying resistance in carbon grains due to pressure, and builds a rheostat based on the principle but abandons it because of its sensitivity to vibration.
  • May 1874: Gray invents an electromagnet device for transmitting musical tones. Some of his receivers use a metallic diaphragm.
  • July 1874: Alexander Graham Bell conceives the theoretical concept for the telephone while vacationing at his parents' farm near Brantford, Canada. Alexander Melville Bell records notes of his son's conversation in his personal journal.
  • 29 December 1874: Gray demonstrates his musical tones device and transmits "familiar melodies through telegraph wire" at the Presbyterian Church in Highland Park, Illinois.
  • 4 May 1875: Bell conceives of using varying resistance in a wire conducting electric current to create a varying current amplitude.[4]
  • 2 June 1875: Bell transmits the sound of a plucked steel reed using electromagnet instruments.
  • 1 July 1875: Bell uses a bi-directional "gallows" telephone that was able to transmit "indistinct but voice-like sounds" but not clear speech. Both the transmitter and the receiver were identical membrane electromagnet instruments.
  • 1875: Thomas Edison experiments with acoustic telegraphy and, in November, builds an electro-dynamic receiver but does not exploit it.

1876 to 1878[edit]

  • 11 February 1876: Elisha Gray invents a liquid transmitter for use with a telephone, but he did not make one.
  • 14 February 1876, about 9:30 am: Gray or his lawyer brings Gray's patent caveat for the telephone to the Washington, D.C. Patent Office (a caveat was a notice of intention to file a patent application. It was like a patent application, but without a request for examination, for the purpose of notifying the patent office of a possible invention in process).
  • 14 February 1876, about 11:30 am: Bell's lawyer brings to the same patent office Bell's patent application for the telephone. Bell's lawyer requests that it be registered immediately in the cash receipts blotter.
  • 14 February 1876, about 1:30 pm: Approximately two hours later Elisha Gray's patent caveat is registered in the cash blotter. Although his caveat was not a full application, Gray could have converted it into a patent application and contested Bell's priority, but did not do so because of advice from his lawyer and his involvement with acoustic telegraphy. The result was that the patent was awarded to Bell.[5]
  • 7 March 1876: Bell's U.S. Patent, No. 174,465 for the telephone is granted.
  • 10 March 1876: Bell first successfully transmits speech, saying "Mr. Watson, come here! I want to see you!" using a liquid transmitter as described in Gray's caveat, and Bell's own electromagnetic receiver.
  • 16 May 1876: Thomas Edison files first patent application for acoustic telegraphy for which U.S. patent 182,996 was granted 10 October 1876.
  • 25 June 1876: Bell exhibits his telephone at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where it draws enthusiastic reactions from Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil and Lord Kelvin, attracting the attention of the press and resulting in the first announcements of the invention to the general public. Lord Kelvin describes the telephone as "the greatest by far of all the marvels of the electric telegraph".[6]
  • 10 August 1876: Alexander Graham Bell makes the world's first long-distance telephone call, one-way, not reciprocal, over a distance of about 6 miles, between Brantford and Paris, Ontario, Canada.
  • 1876: Hungarian Tivadar Puskás invents the telephone switchboard exchange (later working with Edison).
  • 9 October 1876: Bell makes the first two-way long-distance telephone call between Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts.
  • October 1876: Edison tests his first carbon microphone.
  • 1877: The first experimental Telephone Exchange in Boston.
  • 20 January 1877: Edison "first [succeeds] in transmitting over wires many articulated sentences" using carbon granules as a pressure-sensitive varying resistance under the pressure of a diaphragm.[7]
  • 30 January 1877: Bell's U.S. Patent No. 186,787 is granted for an electromagnetic telephone using permanent magnets, iron diaphragms, and a call bell.
  • 4 March 1877: Emile Berliner invents a microphone based on "loose contact" between two metal electrodes, an improvement on Reis' Telephone, and in April 1877 files a caveat of an invention in process.
  • April 1877: A telephone line connects the workshop of Charles Williams, Jr., located in Boston, to his house in Somerville, Massachusetts, at 109 Court Street in Boston, where Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson had previously experimented with their telephone. The telephones became No. 1 and 2 in the Bell Telephone Company.[8]
  • 27 April 1877: Edison files telephone patent applications. U.S. patents (Nos. 474,230, 474,231 and 474,232) were awarded to Edison in 1892 over the competing claims of Alexander Graham Bell, Emile Berliner, Elisha Gray, Amos Dolbear, J.W. McDonagh, G.B. Richmond, W.L.W. Voeker, J.H. Irwin and Francis Blake Jr.[9] Edison's carbon granules transmitter and Bell's electromagnetic receiver are used, with improvements, by the Bell system for many decades thereafter.[10]
  • 4 June 1877: Emile Berliner files telephone patent application that includes a carbon microphone transmitter.
  • 9 July 1877: The Bell Telephone Company, a common law joint-stock company, is organized by Alexander Graham Bell's future father-in-law Gardiner Greene Hubbard, a lawyer who becomes its first president.
  • 6 October 1877: the Scientific American publishes the invention from Bell – at that time still without a ringer.
  • 25 October 1877: the article in the Scientific American is discussed at the Telegraphenamt in Berlin
  • November 1877: First permanent telephone connection in UK between two business in Manchester using imported Bell instruments.
  • 12 November 1877: The first commercial telephone company enters telephone business in Friedrichsberg close to Berlin[11] using the Siemens pipe as ringer and telephone devices build by Siemens.
  • 1 December 1877: Western Union enters the telephone business using Edison's superior carbon microphone transmitter.
  • 14 January 1878: Bell demonstrates the device to Queen Victoria and gives her an opportunity to try it. Calls are made to Cowes, Southampton and London, the first long-distance calls in the UK.[12] The queen asks to buy the equipment that was used, but Bell offers to make a model specifically for her.[13]
  • 28 January 1878: The first commercial North American telephone exchange is opened in New Haven, Connecticut.
  • 4 February 1878: Edison demonstrates the telephone between Menlo Park, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
  • 14 June 1878: The Telephone Company (Bell's Patents) Ltd. is registered in London. Opened in London on 21 August 1879, it is Europe's first telephone exchange, followed a couple of weeks later by one in Manchester.[14]
  • 12 September 1878: the Bell Telephone Company sues Western Union for infringing Bell's patents.
  • 1878: The first Australian telephone trials were made between Semaphore and Kapunda (and later Adelaide and Port Adelaide) in South Australia.[15]

1879 to 1919[edit]

  • Early months of 1879: The Bell Telephone Company is near bankruptcy and desperate to get a transmitter to equal Edison's carbon transmitter.
  • 17 February 1879: Bell Telephone merges with the New England Telephone Company to form the National Bell Telephone Company. Theodore Vail takes over operations.
  • 1879: Francis Blake invents a carbon transmitter similar to Edison's that saves the Bell company from extinction.
  • 2 August 1879: The Edison Telephone CompLondon Ltd, registered. Opened in London 6 September 1879.
  • 10 September 1879: Connolly and McTighe patent a "dial" telephone exchange (limited in the number of lines to the number of positions on the dial.).
  • 1879: The International Bell Telephone Company (IBTC) of Brussels, Belgium was founded by Bell Telephone Company president Gardiner Greene Hubbard, initially to sell imported telephones and switchboards in Continental Europe.[16][17] International Bell rapidly evolved into an important European telephone service provider and manufacturer, with major operations in several countries.
  • 19 February 1880: The photophone, also called a radiophone, is invented jointly by Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter at Bell's Volta Laboratory.[18][19] The device allowed for the transmission of sound on a beam of light.
  • 20 March 1880: National Bell Telephone merges with others to form the American Bell Telephone Company.
  • 1 April 1880: world's first wireless telephone call on Bell and Tainter's photophone (distant precursor to fiber-optic communications) from the Franklin School in Washington, D.C. to the window of Bell's laboratory, 213 meters away.[20][21]
  • 1 July 1881: The world's first international telephone call is made between St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, and Calais, Maine, United States.[22]
  • 11 October 1881: The Sydney telephone exchange opened with 12 subscribers.
  • 1882: A telephone company—an American Bell Telephone Company affiliate—is set up in Mexico City.
  • 14 May 1883: The Adelaide exchange was opened, with 48 subscribers.[15]
  • 7 September 1883: The Port Adelaide exchange was opened, with 21 subscribers.[15]
  • 4 September 1884: Opening of telephone service between New York and Boston (235 miles).[23]
  • 3 March 1885: The American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T) is incorporated as the long-distance division of American Bell Telephone Company. It will become the head of the Bell System on the last day of 1899.
  • 1886: Gilliland's Automatic circuit changer is put into service between Worcester and Leicester featuring the first operator dialing allowing one operator to run two exchanges.
  • 1887: Tivadar Puskás introduced the multiplex switchboard, that had an epochal significance in the further development of telephone exchange.[24]
  • 13 January 1887: the Government of the United States moves to annul the master patent issued to Alexander Graham Bell on the grounds of fraud and misrepresentation. The case, known as the 'Government Case', is later dropped after it was revealed that the U.S. Attorney General, Augustus Hill Garland had been given millions of dollars of stock in the company trying to unseat Bell's telephone patent.
  • 1888: Telephone patent court cases are confirmed by the Supreme Court, see The Telephone Cases
  • 1889: AT&T becomes the overall holding company for all the Bell companies.
  • 2 November 1889: A.G. Smith patents a telegraph switch which provides for trunks between groups of selectors allowing for the first time, fewer trunks than there are lines, and automatic selection of an idle trunk.
  • 10 March 1891: Almon Strowger patents the Strowger switch the first Automatic telephone exchange.
  • 30 October 1891: The independent Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange Company is formed.
  • 3 May 1892: Thomas Edison awarded patents for the carbon microphone based on applications lodged in 1877.
  • 18 October 1892: Opening of telephone service between New York and Chicago (950 miles).[23]
  • 3 November 1892: The first Strowger switch goes into operation in LaPorte, Indiana, with 75 subscribers and capacity for 99.
  • 30 January 1894: The second fundamental Bell patent for the telephone expires; Independent telephone companies established, and independent manufacturing companies (Stromberg-Carlson in 1894 and Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company in 1897).
  • 30 December 1899: American Bell Telephone Company is purchased by its own long-distance subsidiary, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) to bypass state regulations limiting capitalization. AT&T assumes leadership role of the Bell System.
  • 25 December 1900: John W. Atkins, the manager at International Ocean Telegraph Company (IOTC), a subsidiary of Western Union Telegraph Company made the first international telephone call over telegraph cable at 09:55 from his office in Key West to Havana, Cuba.[25] Atkins was reported in the Florida Times Union and Citizen as saying, "For a long time there was no sound, except the roar heard at night sometimes, caused by electric light current." He continued calling Cuba and finally came back the words, clear and distinct: "I don't understand you."[26]
  • 27 February 1901: United States Court of Appeal declares void Emile Berliner's patent for a telephone transmitter used by the Bell telephone system
  • 1902: The first Australian interstate calls between Mount Gambier and Nelson.[15]
  • 26 February 1914: Boston-Washington underground cable commenced commercial service.[23]
  • 16 January 1915: The first automatic Panel exchange was installed at the Mulberry Central Office in Newark, New Jersey; but was a semi-automatic system using non-dial telephones.
  • 25 January 1915: First transcontinental telephone call (3600 miles), with Thomas Augustus Watson at 333 Grant Avenue in San Francisco receiving a call from Alexander Graham Bell at 15 Dey Street in New York City, facilitated by a newly invented vacuum tube amplifier.[27]
  • 21 October 1915: First transmission of speech across the Atlantic Ocean by radiotelephone from Arlington, Virginia to Paris, France.[23]
  • 1919: The first rotary dial telephones in the Bell System installed in Norfolk, Virginia. Telephones that lacked dials and touch-tone pads were no longer made by the Bell System after 1978.[citation needed]
  • 1919: AT&T conducts more than 4,000 measurements of people's heads to gauge the best dimensions of standard headsets so that callers' lips would be near the microphone when holding handsets up to their ears.[28]

1920 to 1969[edit]

1970 to 1999[edit]

2000 to present[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McVeigh, Daniel P. An Early History of the Telephone: 1664-1866: Robert Hooke's Acoustic Experiments and Acoustic Inventions (archived from the original on 18 June 2013), Columbia University website. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  2. ^ Giles, Arthur (editor). County Directory of Scotland (for 1901-1904): Twelfth Issue: Telephone (Scottish Post Office Directories), Edinburgh: R. Grant & Son, 1902, p. 28.
  3. ^ Text of Meucci's Caveat, pages 16-18.
  4. ^ Bruce (1990), pages 144-145.
  5. ^ Hounshell, David A. 1975. "Elisha Gray and the Telephone: On the Disadvantages of Being an Expert", Technology and Culture, 1975, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 133–161.
  6. ^ "Bell's centennial telephone transmitter, 1876". National Archives UK. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  7. ^ Josephson, p. 143.
  8. ^ John Lossing, Woodrow Wilson. Harpers' Encyclopædia Of United States From 458 A. D. To 1905, Harper & Brothers, 1905. Original from Pennsylvania State University, Digitized: 25 June 2009.
  9. ^ Edison, Thomas A. 1880. The Speaking Telephone Interferences, Evidence for Thomas A. Edison. Vol. 1 (jpg image), [cited 21 April 2006].
  10. ^ Josephson, p. 146.
  11. ^ "Cdrtools (Cdrecord) release information".
  12. ^ Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates the newly invented telephone
  13. ^ "pdf, Letter from Alexander Graham Bell to Sir Thomas Biddulph, February 1, 1878". Library of Congress. Retrieved 14 January 2020. The instruments at present in Osborne are merely those supplied for ordinary commercial purposes, and it will afford me much pleasure to be permitted to offer to the Queen a set of Telephones to be made expressly for her Majesty's use.
  14. ^ Early Manchester Telephone Exchanges Archived 7 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ a b c d "Development of Telephone". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 21 June 1933. p. 5. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  16. ^ StowgerNet Museum. BTMC And ATEA—Antwerp's Twin Telephone Companies, StowgerNet Telephone Museum website. Retrieved 20 August 2010.
  17. ^ Bob's Old Phones. European Bell and Western Electric Phones, Bob's Old Phones website. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
  18. ^ Bruce 1990, pg. 336
  19. ^ Jones, Newell. First 'Radio' Built by San Diego Resident Partner of Inventor of Telephone: Keeps Notebook of Experiences With Bell Archived 4 September 2006 at archive.today, San Diego Evening Tribune, 31 July 1937. Retrieved from the University of San Diego History Department website, 26 November 2009.
  20. ^ Bruce 1990, pg.338
  21. ^ Carson 2007, pg.76-78
  22. ^ "First international phone call".
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n The Magic of Communication. Bell Telephone System. October 1953.
  24. ^ Francis S. Wagner: Hungarian Contributions to World Civilization – Page 68
  25. ^ "History of the Atlantic Cable & Submarine Telegraphy - Key West".
  26. ^ "A centenary of Christmas phone calls".
  27. ^ "Phone to Pacific From the Atlantic". The New York Times. 26 January 1915. Archived from the original on 16 June 2001.
  28. ^ Feldman, David (1989). When Do Fish Sleep? And Other Imponderables of Everyday Life. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. p. 15. ISBN 0-06-016161-2.
  29. ^ Young, Peter (1991). Person to person: the international impact of the telephone. Granta Editions. p. 285. ISBN 0-906782-62-7.
  30. ^ "2-Way Television in Phoning Tested", The New York Times, 10 April 1930, pg. 25 (subscription);
  31. ^ "Washington Hails The Test: Operator There Puts Through the Calls as Scientists Watch", The New York Times, 8 April 1927, pg. 20 (subscription)
  32. ^ Maloberti, Franco; Davies, Anthony C. (2016). "History of Electronic Devices". A Short History of Circuits and Systems: From Green, Mobile, Pervasive Networking to Big Data Computing (PDF). IEEE Circuits and Systems Society. pp. 59-70 (65-7). ISBN 9788793609860.
  33. ^ a b c d e Allstot, David J. (2016). "Switched Capacitor Filters". In Maloberti, Franco; Davies, Anthony C. (eds.). A Short History of Circuits and Systems: From Green, Mobile, Pervasive Networking to Big Data Computing (PDF). IEEE Circuits and Systems Society. pp. 105–110. ISBN 9788793609860.
  34. ^ a b "Push-button telephone chips" (PDF). Wireless World: 383. August 1970.
  35. ^ a b Valéry, Nicholas (11 April 1974). "Debut for the telephone on a chip". New Scientist. Reed Business Information. 62 (893): 65–7. ISSN 0262-4079.
  36. ^ Electronic Components. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1974. p. 23.
  37. ^ Gust, Victor; Huizinga, Donald; Paas, Terrance (January 1976). "Call anywhere at the touch of a button" (PDF). Bell Laboratories Record. 54: 3–8.
  38. ^ a b "Finland". Archived from the original on 28 December 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
  39. ^ a b Floyd, Michael D.; Hillman, Garth D. (8 October 2018) [1st pub. 2000]. "Pulse-Code Modulation Codec-Filters". The Communications Handbook (2nd ed.). CRC Press. pp. 26–1, 26–2, 26–3. ISBN 9781420041163.
  40. ^ United States House Resolution 269.
  41. ^ "House of Commons of Canada, Journals No. 211, 37th Parliament, 1st Session, No. 211 transcript". Hansard of the Government of Canada, 21 June 2002, pg.1620 / cumulative pg.13006, time mark: 1205. Retrieved: 29 April 2009.
  42. ^ Fox, Jim, "Bell's Legacy Rings Out at his Homes", The Globe and Mail, 17 August 2002.
  43. ^ Small LA town gets phone service for first time on Mon, WISTV.com website, 1 February 2005.


  • Bourseul, Charles (1854), Transmission électrique de la parole, Paris: L'Illustration, 26 August 1854.(in French)
  • Thompson, Sylvanus P. (1883), Philipp Reis, Inventor of the Telephone, London: E. & F. N. Spon, 1883.
  • Coe, Lewis (1995), The Telephone and Its Several Inventors: A History, North Carolina: McFarland, 1995. ISBN 0-7864-0138-9
  • Baker, Burton H. (2000), The Gray Matter: The Forgotten Story of the Telephone, Telepress, St. Joseph, Michigan, 2000. ISBN 0-615-11329-X
  • Josephson, Matthew (1992), Edison: A Biography, Wiley, ISBN 0-471-54806-5
  • Bruce, Robert V. (1990), Bell: Alexander Bell and the Conquest of Solitude, Cornell University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-8014-9691-8
  • Farley, Tom (2007), "The Cell-Phone Revolution", Invention & Technology, Winter 2007, vol. 22:3, pages 8–19.

External links[edit]