This Crazy Little Thing They Call the Telephone
I think the telephone is one of those modern luxuries that we can’t imagine living without. I know my husband faced my proposal of giving up cell phones for a land line with boisterous laughter. (As was expected when I suggested it). With iPhones, texting, videos, games, ringers that play our favorite songs, and pretty much every phone having the capability to take pictures now, it’s really astounding to us when someone doesn’t have a cell phone, can you imagine meeting someone without a phone at all?
The interesting thing is that even by 1904, 28 years after the telephone’s invention it was in 3 million homes across America. At that time calls were placed through a switchboard which would then connect the caller to the intended recipient. This was used largely until the 1960s when Direct Dialing (which is what we use now) came into wide-usage.
The anatomy of the telephone changed a bit over the years, in 1919 AT&T who bought Bell Labs, from the famed Alexander Graham Bell began extensive testing. They gathered measurements from 4,000 people in order to determine appropriate ear to mouth measurements. After the Rotary Dial was added to the telephone in the 1930s it remained largely unchanged until touch-tone dialing.
In my research I found this phone directory page ca. 1914 again from the time capsule from the Hub Hotel in Sheldon, Iowa.
I know it is hard to read in the picture, so I’ll tell you, my favorite part of this whole thing is the very bottom where it describes the Instructions for using the phone system:
Always ring off. Answer all calls promptly. Speak distinctly in an ordinary tone of voice directly into the transmitter. Ask Central for information regarding trains– do not call the depot. If the telephone does not work report to the manager.
Office hours from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. On Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. Night calls answered in case of sickness or fire. Always call by NUMBER.
I almost want to make this my voice mail message, how strange is it to have instructions for using a phone. It’s amazing really that this was just 100 years ago, how far we have come!