August 2, 1922: Your Call Is Important to Us

phone1Alexander Graham Bell was one of those curious inventive sort of kids, the kind that love to experiment and blow up the garage with their chemistry set when they’re eight. Although he was normally quiet (except for the explosions), he loved mimicry and ventriloquism, throwing his voice here and there to baffle guests and leave his family carrying on conversations with the dog and the cat and plants.

Troubled by his mother’s near deafness, he developed a technique of speaking directly into her forehead instead of her ears which for some reason enabled her to hear him. That evidently awakened a dream within him: If he could speak to his mother’s forehead and she could hear, he must be able to speak to a forehead in China or some other faraway place and be heard.

This of course led to his study of acoustics, and his greatest invention. By 1876, he had developed a theory of forehead to forehead long distance transmission, and just days after receiving a patent, Bell succeeded in getting his invention to work.  He held the device to his forehead and spoke the now famous sentence: “Mr Watson – Come here – I want to see you.” In an adjoining room, Watson, listening at the receiving end (he held it to his ear but probably never told Bell), heard the words clearly.  He shouted to Bell the equally famous words: “Not now.  I’m on the phone.”

Oddly enough, Bell considered his most famous invention an annoyance and refused to have a telephone in his study.

Bell died on August 2, 1922 before he could invent many improvements to his telephone, leaving it for others to come up with such refinements as the busy signal, call waiting, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?”, cell phones and smart phones, obnoxious ringtones during concerts, and robocalls from Wayne LaPierre.   As another famous inventor put it: “What hath God wrought?”


Reality is nothing but a collective hunch. ~ Lily Tomlin