Happy birthday to the telephone – 140 years old this week

Posted by: Jo Love
Category: News

The history of the telephone dates back to 1667, when English polymath Robert Hooke created the first acoustic string telephone.

Yet, it would take 209 years until Alexander Graham Bell successfully carried out the first bi-directional transmission of clear speech on March 10, 1876.

“Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you,” where the first words ever spoken over a telephone line.

There are now 25 million landline telephones and business telephone systems in the UK and more than 7 billion mobile devices worldwide.

In this article, Computer Business review (CBR) runs down the key relevant points in time for the telephone.


Speaking to assistant Thomas Watson on March 10 1876, Alexander Graham Bell successfully made the first telephone call in human history.

Three days before the trial, Bell was granted the 174,465 patent for his invention by US officials. In this first telephone, sound waves caused an electric current to vary in intensity and frequency, causing a thin, soft iron plate – called the diaphragm – to vibrate.

These vibrations were transferred magnetically to another wire connected to a diaphragm in another, distant instrument. When that diaphragm vibrated, the original sound would be replicated in the ear of the receiving instrument.

Alexander Graham Bell - 140 years telephone invention


One year after the experiment, the first long-distance telephone line was deployed. Today there are 1.16 billion worldwide.

The line connected telegraph instrument maker Charles Williams Jr’s workshop to his home in Boston. The locations were three miles away from each other.

The phones were known as number 1 and 2 at Bell’s Telephone Company.



In 1889 the first ever public telephone was installed by inventor William Gray at a bank in Hartford, Connecticut.

The telephone used a coin-pay mechanism and accepted coins after the call had been finished.

140 years telephone invention


Eighty-four years down the line, the first cellular phone call was made by Motorola’s employee Martin Cooper. He called AT&T’s Bell Labs head of research Joel Engel from a Motorola DynaTAC.

There are now more than seven billion mobile devices worldwide, as many mobiles as people on earth.

140 year birthday of the telephone


In 1989, the invention of the World Wide Web (www) by researchers at ARPANET did not have a direct impact on the telephone market, however, it built the basis for today’s devices.

The Internet went live in 1991 opening the opportunity for VOIP communications to be developed.



Years later, the first VOIP company, VocalTec, founded and launched the ‘InternetPhone’ in February 1995.

The ‘iPhone’, how it became known at the time, allowed users to call other people over the internet on a computer with the use of a microphone and speakers. It would however require both ends of the call to use the same software.



On June 29, 2007 Apple launched the first iPhone. The device’s development started in 2004 under the code of “Project Purple” and Apple had 1,000 people working on it.

The device is seen as a revolutioniser of the mobile phone industry and has led to the development of other more intelligent products by its rivals, including Samsung. In 2015, Apple sold 231 million iPhone units, of a grand total of 700 million.

iPhone 1 - 140 year telephone anniversary


Today, 140 years from Bell’s world’s first telephone call, cloud telephony and business communications software spending is expected to surpass on premise hardware in 2017.

According to Gartner, cloud telephony and messaging will top$10.4 billion next year, up from $9.2 billion this year. As for premise-based telephony and messaging, this will decrease from 2016’s $10.2 billion to $9.6 billion in 2017.

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