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Mr. Bell’s Big Idea

Jeffrey Syken

Alexander Graham Bell - the father of modern communications, was first and foremost a teacher and champion of the deaf to whom he devoted much of his life and fortune. The fact that his benevolent work for the hearing impaired gave the world his “Big Idea” – the telephone, is really a matter of fortune favoring the bold.

In search of “Harmonic Telegraphy” - a method of carrying several messages simultaneously on a single telegraph wire, Bell heard a harmonic overtone through the apparatus he and his assistant Thomas Watson were experimenting with. This gave him the impetus to pursue his idea of the telephone further. That was in early June 1875, on March 10th 1876, the first true telephonic communication occurred when, after spilling an acidic solution on himself during an experiment, Bell spoke aloud these six famous words which Watson (in another room) heard clearly on the refined test equipment: “Watson, come here, I want you.”

Bell lived to see his dream of voice communication over wire come true. On January 25th 1915, with President Wilson at his side in New York, the first trans-continental telephone call was made from New York to San Francisco where Bell’s old, able assistant - Tom Watson, answered the call. The President offered his congratulations and the two old friends shared a pleasant conversation recollecting their past achievements and the promising future of telephonic communication others were/would carry forward in the same spirit of invention and human progress as they had personified so many years before.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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