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1876 __ The first 'long-distance' telephone call
Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), Thomas A. Watson (1854-1934)
Comment : On August 10th the world's first 'long-distance' telephone call was placed, albeit a one-way connection, in Ontario, Canada. Bell's father and uncle were at the transmitter end in Brantford, Ontario while Bell listened in Paris, Ontario. The connection took place over borrowed telegraph wires spanning eight miles. It was also the world's first telephone call to be placed over outdoor wires. The first two-way long-distance conversation took place on October 9th between Boston and Cambridge using borrowed telegraph lines and magneto telephones designed to both transmit and receive. (John Brooks)November 26th brought yet another successful long-distance call over 16 miles of borrowed telegraph line between Boston and Salem. Now testing the limits of contemporary technology, Bell and Watson attempted a call of 143 miles between Boston and North Conway, New Hampshire (again using a borrowed telegraph line), but they failed hear intelligible speech. Watson attributed this to the poor condition of the telegraph line.The world's first two way long distance telephone conversation over an outdoor wire (borrowed telegraph line) takes place between Cambridgeport and Boston, Massachusetts between Bell and Watson. 1877. (Compiled from various sources)Another long-distance call was made between Alexander Graham Bell in New-York and Thomas A. Watson in San Francisco in 1915. The first transatlantic call from Arlington, Virginia to the Eiffel Tower in Paris took place in the same year. And the first dial telephones were installed in New Jersey, in 1914. (Anton Sebastian)Late in July, Bell put two of his membrane telephones, an iron-box receiver with assorted coils of wire into his bag, and went home for his summer holiday in Brantford. There, in early August, in Bell's own words, 'articulate speech was for the first time transmitted and received between places that were separated by miles of space". Three experiments of that month, each confirming the triumph, were to become historic. In all of them the membrane telephone was used as a transmitter and the iron-box apparatus as a receiver. The apparatus was not designed to transmit and receive conversation simultaneously, so messages went only one way by telephone and the replies came back by telegraph. Before the long-distance tests, however, Bell had a triple mouthpiece made for the membrane telephone. It seemed so much more wonderful to every one that two or three voices could be heard at the same time than that the electric current could carry one voice distinctly. Besides, part songs were the vogue, and all the Bell cousins sang. A wire was run from the verandah to one of the outbuildings at Tutelo Heights, and everybody took turns first at the mouthpiece and then at the receiver. When there was no one available to share the trials, Bell strung a wire around the eaves of the house, and sat telephoning to himself in his own room. The family had friends in the little town of Paris, eight miles away from Brantford. It was in Paris that the Bells had stayed for the first few days when they came to Canada. Arrangement were made with Mr. Griffin, manager of the Brantford office of the Dominion Telegraph Company, to use the wires of the company between his office and the Paris office. Bell connected the membrane telephone and its triple mouthpiece at the Brantford telegraph office. Then he got a buggy and drove the eight miles to Paris, carrying the iron-box receiver and an extra high-tension coil wrapped up on his lap. His father had another engagement that day and could not be present to help with the Brantford programme, so Bell arranged with his uncle, David Bell, to be at the telegraph office to recite into the mouthpiece, and direct the singing of the volunteer performers. David Bell, co-author of the 'Standard Elocutionist", and also a teacher of elocution, could, Bell said, 'recite Shakespeare by the hour'. That was what his nephew wanted; clear, sustained elocution, and lots of it. At the Paris telegraph office he connected the receiver, and listened. These was a storm of 'bubling and crackling sounds', but through them, 'in a faint, far-away manner', Bell could hear the voices of singers and speakers in Brantford. Low-resistance coils were being used. Bell telegraphed to Mr. Griffin by another line and asked him to substitute an electro-magnet with coils of high resistance. While this was being done, Bell made the same change in the receiving apparatus. There were still noises on the line, but now the speeches came through so distinctly that Bell could recognize the voices of the speakers. 'First I heard a cough, then a voice which said."To be or not to be"' [...] This was the most astonishing feat which the telephone had performed up to that time. The speakers were in Brantford, the listener in Paris eight miles away, and the battery used was in Toronto, some sixty-eight miles off. (Catherine MacKenzie)
French comment : Avec l'aide de Watson, les appareils de Bell vont acquérir la précision technique qui leur manquait jusque là. En juin 1875, une vérification de routine de l'une des languettes du système permet de transmettre les premiers sons musicaux. En juillet 1875, les premiers sons humains seront transmis d'une pièce à l'autre du grenier de l'usine Williams. Bell et Watson se lancent alors dans une course à la qualité, et doivent faire face à la concurrence d'un autre inventeur, Elisha Gray. Celui-ci déposa son brevet deux heures seulement après celui de Bell et Watson, le 14 février 1876. Quelques jours après la confirmation de l'Office des brevets, Bell et Watson mirent au point la combinaison gagnante. Ils remplacèrent la languette de métal par un fil plongeant dans un bain d'eau et d'acide. Les variations de la résistance du mélange dans le bocal permettaient de moduler l'intensité du courant dans le fil de la même manière que les ondes sonores dans l'atmosphère. Bell lancera officiellement le téléphone au mois de juin 1876, à l'occasion de l'Exposition du centenaire de la fondation des États-Unis à Philadelphie. Au retour de Philadelphie, Bell se rend à Brantford (Ontario), afin de passer l'été chez son père. Il en profite pour louer la ligne télégraphique entre Brantford et Paris, un village situé à 13 km de là. C'est ainsi qu'en août 1876, Bell procède à un test interurbain entre Brantford et Paris (Ontario). Il s'agit d'une transmission téléphonique unidirectionnelle, le retour étant assuré par télégraphe. (Jean-Guy Rens, "Histoire des télécommunications au Canada")
Original excerpt : « We are informed, by the Expositor that at the party at the residence of Professor A. Melville Bell, Brantford, on Friday evening, August 4th, a rare treat was afforded to the guests in the experimental explanations made by Professor A. Graham Bell, of Boston, of the new system of telephoning invented by that gentleman. Instruments were placed, one in the porch of the residence, and the other in an outhouse on the grounds, and communication between these made by ten miles of wire. Musical notes, the human voice, and songs spoken and sung before one instrument were plainly audible by placing the instrument to the ear at the other. By this invention too any number of messages can be conveyed over one wire in either direction, provided they have a different pitch. The tone of the voice can pass over the electric wire enabling the hearer at any distance to hear distinctly what is said and to distinguish the voice of the speaker. On Thursday the Professor had communication made with his instruments on a common telegraph wire, between Brantford and Mount Pleasant (five miles) by Professor D.C. Bell and Mr. Grifin, from the Dominion office in Brantford. On Saturday evening the Professor tried a new experiment, having had an instrument made so that three persons could sing different tunes or different parts of the same tune into the instrument at the same time. The trial was perfectly successful, the different voices coming distinctly over the wire at the same time, so that they could be separately distinguished by the listener. The practical exemplification of the lately discovered system of telephoning made by the Professor afforded much pleasure and information to those present. » (Toronto Globe, August 11, 1876)
Source : Brooks, John (1976), “Telephone, The First Hundred Years”, New York: Harper & Row.
Source : Sebastian, Anton (2001), “A dictionary of the history of science”, Informa Health Care, p. 326.
Source : MacKenzie, Catherine (1928), "Alexander Graham Bell", Kessinger Publishing, 2003, p. 132-136.
Urls : http://css.psu.edu/news/nlfa98/slice.html (last visited ) http://agora.qc.ca/activ3.html (last visited )

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