March 7, 1876: The Birth of Modern Communications
What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.
--Alexander Graham Bell
Today is a day that should be celebrated in every telecom department across the world. Why? Because on March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was granted United States patent 174,465 for his invention of the telephone. While there is some controversy over who actually came up with the original idea for the telephone, Mr. Bell must be recognized for creating the first telephone company (The Bell Telephone Company) and building the foundation of a communications network that is still in existence today.
My connection to Mr. Bell comes through my 28 years at the company formerly known as Northern Telecom. Northern Telecom eventually became Nortel and parts were ultimately purchased by Avaya, but it can trace its roots back to the Northern Electric Company and the Bell Telephone Company of Canada. In many regards, I owe my career and interest in communications directly back to Alexander and his patent.
While we marvel at how much has changed in communications over the last 130+ years, I am amazed at how much remains exactly as it did all those years ago. Any telephone guy or gal worth his or her salt can tell you all about tip and ring. Did you know that this technology, which is still in use today, dates back to the late 19th century?
How about the term POTS? POTS, or Plain Old Telephone Service, has been around since before you, your parents, and most of your grandparents were born. While much has changed, a lot of that old telephony stuff still lingers on in one form or another.
This will sound crazy, but my 90-year-old mom is still on a party line. Granted, she is the only one on that line and it's mostly a billing thing, but she never changed her 1950's era service and the phone company grandfathered her in.
However, nothing lasts forever, and I would like to think that I will live to see the day when the last analog phone line is disconnected (and Mom is kicked off that party line). We've recently seen network television move into the digital world, so I don't believe that my wish is too far off the mark.
No matter when that happens, though, March 7th is a day to celebrate the accomplishments of a man, an idea, a company, and a revolution in how we communicate.
Today, when you pick up that receiver, put that Bluetooth device in your ear, or plug that USB headset into your PC, take a moment to recognize that ideas can change the world forever.
Thank you, Alexander Graham Bell.
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Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.