Alexander Graham Bell’s research on hearing and speech led him to experiment with hearing devices which eventually culminated in Bell being awarded the first US patent for the telephone in 1876.
In retrospect, Bell considered his most famous invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.
Bell’s telephone patent 174,465, was issued on March 7, 1876, by the U.S. Patent Office. His patent covered “the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically … by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sound,”
On March 10, 1876, three days after his patent was issued, Bell succeeded in getting his telephone to work, using a liquid transmitter.
Vibration of the diaphragm caused a needle to vibrate in the water, varying the electrical resistance in the circuit.
When Bell spoke the famous sentence “Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you” into the liquid transmitter, Watson, listening at the receiving end in an adjoining room, heard the words clearly.
Although Bell was, and still is, accused of stealing the telephone from Elisha Gray, Bell used Gray’s water transmitter design only after Bell’s patent was granted and only as a proof of concept scientific experiment to prove to his own satisfaction that intelligible “articulate speech” (Bell’s words) could be electrically transmitted.
After March 1876, Bell focused on improving the electromagnetic telephone and never used Gray’s liquid transmitter in public demonstrations or commercial use.
The question of priority for the variable resistance feature of the telephone was raised by the patent examiner before he approved Bell’s patent application. He told Bell that his claim for the variable resistance feature was also described in Elisha Gray’s caveat.
Bell pointed to a variable resistance device in Bell’s previous application in which Bell described a cup of mercury, not water. Bell had filed the mercury application at the patent office a year earlier on February 25, 1875, long before Elisha Gray described the water device.
In addition, Gray abandoned his caveat, and because Gray did not contest Bell’s priority, the examiner approved Bell’s patent on March 3, 1876.
Thus Gray had reinvented the variable resistance telephone, but Bell was the first to write down the idea and the first to test it in a telephone.
Bell Telephone Company
The Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877.
Bell company engineers made numerous other improvements to the telephone, which emerged as one of the most successful products ever.
In 1879, the Bell company acquired Edison’s patents for the carbon microphone from Western Union. This made the telephone practical for longer distances and it was no longer necessary to shout to be heard at the receiving telephone.
In 1877–78, Edison invented and developed the carbon microphone used in all telephones as a carbon telephone transmitter along with the Bell receiver.
After protracted patent litigation, in 1892 a federal court confirmed that Edison and not Emile Berliner had been the inventor of the carbon microphone.
The carbon microphone was also used in radio broadcasting and public address work through the 1920s.
Oriental Telephone Company
Alexander Graham Bell had formed the Oriental Bell Telephone Company of New York and the Anglo-Indian Telephone Company, Ltd. to expand the telephone across Asia.
Then on January 25, 1881, Alexander Graham Bell merged with Thomas Edison and established the Oriental Telephone Company.
Their new company became licensed to sell telephones in Greece, Turkey, South Africa, India, Japan, China, and other Asian countries.
How do you say “Hello” in all those languages?
Now WE know em