On this day in 1875, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson first transmitted sound over wires. Watson twanged a spring near one device, and Bell heard it through the other device. It took about nine more months for the two to create that more famous first—transmitting understandable words through the world's first telephone.
On this day in 1896, Guglielmo Marconi obtained his first radio patent in England. It was termed a wireless telegraphy apparatus.
The first half of the 1800s had seen a revolution in communication through electricity: the invention and improvement of the telegraph. The telegraph required wires for the message to travel across, and it also required trained operators who could translate messages into Morse Code (and Morse Code back into messages).
In the later half of the 1800s, many people continued to work with electricity and communications. Bell's and Watson's telephone was an improvement over the telegraph in that translators and codes were not required. Marconi's radio was an improvement in that no wires were needed.
Of course, we now have wireless networks and satellite communication – with the internet and cellular phones making communications worldwide much faster, cheaper, and more reliable than ever before. And people are still working on making our newest systems even better.
Did you know...?
- Marconi did not discover any new principles or hatch any new ideas in his successful radio device. Instead, he improved and combined components others had already invented, adapting them to his system.
- Bell was very interested in sound partly because of his mother's gradual deafness, which began when he was just12 years old.
- Marconi was born and died in Italy, although he did much of his work in England and some in the U.S.
- Bell was born in Scotland, moved to Canada, and did much of his work in the U.S.
- Marconi's “marvelous invention” was given credit by some for the rescue of the survivors of the Titanic, because wireless technology was used by the Titanic, the rescue ship Carpathia, and Marconi International Marine Communication Company.
- Bell decided that his most famous invention was a source of unwanted interruption, and he wouldn't allow a telephone to be installed in his study.
- The classic soup-can-and-string telephone can help us understand how early telephones worked.
- Little kids need to practice learning phone numbers (including emergency phone numbers such as 9-1-1). This DLTK worksheet can help.
- Read more about the history of the telephone here.
- People still build their own crystal radios! Remember, radio can be a two-way communication device (like ham radios and the radios used by police and boats) as well as the more familiar one-way device (tuning into commercial radio transmissions).
Here are some directions for building a crystal radio receiver.
- There are lots of radio stations meant just for kids. Radio Disney may be one of the most popular.
- Here's a fairly simple explanation of how radios work.