The First Telephone Call Made: History

Afton Lynn

By Afton Lynn

Est. Reading Time: 15 Mins

The First Telephone Call Made: History

Telecommunication has become a vital part of our everyday lives. We use our phones to communicate with our family, friends, co-workers, and different people from all over the world.

More importantly, we use our phones to accomplish multiple tasks and to speed up our work efficiency. In this modern age and fast-paced world that we live in, it’s almost impossible to imagine what life would be like without our cellphones and landline phones.

To pay tribute to the genius behind telecommunication, let’s explore when and how the first telephone call was made. Who made it happen? What was the first-ever message delivered via a phone call? What transpired from this invention? Let’s dig into the fascinating history that started it all.

Who Made the First Telephone Call?

Who made the first telephone call?

You might have encountered the name Alexander Graham Bell in your studies and past researches as a student. He is famous for inventing the telephone and being “the man behind the first telephone call in history”.

He was born in 1847 in Edinburg, Scotland, and was well-known for his expertise in sound and public speaking. Bell worked as a professor/instructor for the deaf and was also an engineer, inventor, and scientist.

As a Scottish-born genius who was deeply fascinated with the nature of sound, Bell developed a lifelong interest and persistent inclination in this field of study.

This passion adds to the fact that his family consisted of speech instructors, and both his mother and wife had hearing impairments. Hence, his understanding of sound has enabled him to educate the deaf and to invent and develop the telephone system.

Bell pursued his telephone invention when he misinterpreted a technical work by Helmholtz, which he read in the German language. He attempted to study the logic behind the book’s diagrams closely. However, he misunderstood them by believing all along that Helmholtz was able to convert the speech sounds to electricity.

This misunderstanding eventually led to his discovery of how human speech can be electrically transmitted. As it turned out, Bell was able to conduct his own series of experiments in his own workshop on how to transmit all speech sounds and enable electronic communication.

Before this invention, history also revealed that way back in 1875, Bell heard a vibration resonating from a device he was working on. This device was meant to send out multiple telegraph signals using the same wire through harmonics. This observation was what initially led him to investigate and further study whether his electrical device can be useful in transmitting the sound of a human voice.

An Accidental Discovery

The Discovery of Thomas Watson and Alexander Graham Bell.

The first transmission of sound over a wire was first observed on March 7, 1876 by Thomas Watson. He was an assistant of then Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who is well-known in history as the genius behind the first-ever telephone system and telephone call. Watson was attempting to reactivate a telegraph transmitter when he heard a sound.

Being a man of vision, Bell had an impression that this could open up the possibility of sending human voice over a wire. This discovery gave rise to a breakthrough in the field of telecommunication. He started by figuring out how to transmit a simple current. However, it turned out that there were other inventors and scientists who had the same ideas during that time.

Bell had to act fast and race to the patent office to be the first one to get his patent in. On March 7, 1876, Bell received an intellectual property patent for this invention. He came in first, and as history unfolds, Bell and his investors made a valuable patent that was about to change the world and revolutionize human communication and interaction.

The First Telephone Call

The first telephone call can be traced way back to March 10, 1876, in Boston. Alexander Graham Bell made it to demonstrate his potential to “talk with electricity” by transmitting a telephone call to his assistant, Thomas Watson. He was also the first one to ever deliver a verbal and comprehensible message via phone. Mr. Bell’s exact words were, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” 

Mr. Bell demonstrated how to speak on the telephone using a model prototype. He was working in his Boston laboratory during that time; and made the first telephone call to Mr. Watson, who was in the next room.

In Bell’s Journal, which can be found in the Library of Congress, he wrote an entry dated March 10, 1876. Here’s what he wrote and how he described his first telephone call;

“I then shouted into M (the mouthpiece) the following sentence: “Mr. Watson, come here – I want to see you.” To my delight, he came and declared that he had heard and understood what I said.

I asked him to repeat the words. He answered, “You said ‘Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you.'” We then changed places, and I listened at S (the speaker) while Mr. Watson read a few passages from a book into the mouth piece M. It was certainly the case that articulate sounds proceeded from S. The effect was loud but indistinct and muffled.

Watson’s journal, however, says the famous quote was: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.”

The first telephone message reflected the huge potential of telecommunications and the many ways to ease up the communication process between people. Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone call became famous and phenomenal that he repeated his iconic first words on the telephone in 1915. This was during the opening of the duly-accomplished transcontinental telephone lines that connect America’s East and West coasts.

Mr. Bell replayed the original scenario that took place in Boston in March 10, 1876. This time, he was in New York. He picked up the phone and said, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” However, this time, Mr. Thomas Watson was able to deliver his own reply. He replied that it would take him a week because he was on the other end of the line in San Francisco.

In history, this milestone marks Mr. Bell’s greatest success as an inventor and scientist because it successfully demonstrated the first use of the telephone. However, despite this phenomenal and life-changing hallmark in his career, he did not want to have a telephone in his home. He stated that he invented the telephone by mistake and thought of it as a distraction. At that time, he was focusing on other forms of studies and researches.

Developments in Telecommunications After the First Phone Call

After his tremendous success with his first telephone call, he wrote to his father to explain his future vision, wherein friends can have conversations with each other without leaving their homes. It is evident that Bell had high hopes following his invention, and this ultimately drove him and his investors to focus on making it profitable.

Towards the latter part of 1876, Bell and his investors tried to sell their patent to Western Union for a price of $100,000. At that time, Western Union was the company responsible for the telegraph wires in America. However, its top executives had the impression that the telephone’s invention was just hype and that it would eventually lose its mass appeal.

The people from Western Union also believed that it wouldn’t be profitable to buy the patent and operate the telephone system. Of course, we can all agree that they made a huge mistake. In 1878, Western Union’s stand on Bell’s invention dramatically changed. The company was willing to offer $25 million to acquire the patent, which was initially offered to them for only $100,000.

Unfortunately for Western Union, there was a major turn in the events. In 1877, Bell and his investors established the Bell Telephone Company. Over the years, multiple mergers have created changes in the company and modified its structure and operations. And the rest is history, as we would all have it. At present, this company has grown to become one of the largest and most extensive network carriers in the United States, which we all know as AT&T.

Alexander Graham Bell did not stop at this point and continued to satisfy his scientific curiosity. His telephone invention made him rich and famous, but he was hungry for new challenges, and he wanted to feed his restless mind. So, he continued making new inventions and discoveries.

Later on, Bell pursued to come up with his new invention, which was the photophone (also known as the optical phone) which became public in 1880. This was the foremost wireless telephone transmission sound that uses a beam of light instead of the typical electrical wires. As you might have guessed, it is the technology behind the cordless phone. In this modern era, we can consider it the predecessor of 80% of our telephone systems that use fiber optics.

Alexander Graham Bell’s Legacy

On August 2, 1922, Alexander Graham Bell passed away at the age of 75 in Nova Scotia, Canada, due to complications from diabetes. To honor him and his valuable contributions in telecommunications throughout his lifetime, every telephone in the U.S. and Canada was silent during his funeral.

Lastly, the unit intensity of sound, “bel”, which is more commonly used in its smaller unit, “decibel”, was also named after Alexander Graham Bell. This sound unit was conceived at the Bell Laboratories to commemorate the man who invented the telephone and made the first telephone call in history.

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