“Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” Those first spoken words from Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, through the wire on March 10, 1876 changed the way we communicate forever. Even today telephones continue to play an important role in our daily life. Almost everyone carries one with him all the time. Telephones serve the core human needs: the ability to communicate in real time with almost everyone around the world through voice interaction.
Before the invention of the telephones, most forms of communication were through letters and telegraph messages. Letters, although is still widely used today, could take days (if not weeks) to send and receive. The further the destinations the longer the letters take to get there. Telegraph messages were much quicker than letters but also limited to sending and receiving one at a time. In addition, one doesn’t get to hear the human voice, which is the core function that makes the telephone one of the most popular tools in communication.
Although the telephones evolve over the years, the core functionalities and the conventions remain the same. For example, the invention of the rotary dial, which developed by Antoine Barnay to connect the caller and receiver without the switchboard operator, is one of the features users are familiar with. When we moved from the rotary dial to push dial, the numbering system is still recognizable to users. Even now the mobile phones with touch-screen dials incorporate the numbering system so that the users don’t have to relearn something that they are used to. Another older convention that made its way back to the mobile phones is texting. Unlike the old telegraph messages, however, texting could be sent and received much faster and with more than one person.
New technologies bring new enhancements to old conventions. Ringtones, for instance, allow users to customize the sound or music to their own liking or set up various rings to differentiate the types of caller. Users didn’t have those options for the older phones. On the basic level, however, both the old and the new phones provide the same functionality: to notify users when they have a call.
The risings of smartphones have met many needs that the predigital phones couldn’t. The iPhone, for instance, is not just a phone, but also more like a little computer. Users can use the web to browse information, read articles or make purchase online. They can play games and listen to music. The can take photos and send them to their social networks. They can locate places closed by or navigate their way around the map.
The evolving of telephones in the past 136 has been a phenomenon to watch. The use of telephone obviously is not going away any time soon. In fact, the mobile phone has been expanded extremely fast in the last couple of years. The next evolvement or innovation of the telephone will be here much sooner than we might have expected.
(First essay for Graduate Design Seminar)