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How the Telephone Changed the World Essay

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The telephone is one of the most important inventions in the world. Before the telephone was invented, you would have to be there in person to have a real-time conversation with another person. The telephone changed the world because it enabled people to have real-time conversations with anybody in the world, regardless of distance. This revolution in communication not only allows personal conversations to take place, but it enhanced our ability to conduct business. The infrastructure needed for telephone communication is immense and has created a prosperous industry. Telephone technology paved the way to other important inventions, such as cellular phones and the internet. Telephones also greatly increased the effectiveness of emergency services which have saved many lives. The process of inventing the telephone took brilliant people decades of work to accomplish.

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, but Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville began the research in 1857, he invented a device, the “phonautograph” that successfully recorded sound waves, however he didn’t think of a playback feature. Thomas Edison completed the playback feature which resulted in the phonograph, a device that allowed users to record sound onto a storage medium, of which they can send like a letter to be played back on a similar device. Around the same time, in 1877, Alexander Graham Bell is credited with the invention of the first electronic telephone that could transmit a person’s voice clearly across electric wiring. Bell founded Bell Labs, which invented many technologies that changed our world. Steven Johnson an author who wrote about how certain innovations change our world says, “The technologies of the voice did not arrive in full force until the late nineteenth century. When they did, they changed just about everything.” (p. 126) It could be said that the invention of the telephone marked the beginning of modern society.

In order to have a conversation, you need to be able to speak, listen and reply to what has been said. This has to be done in real time in order to communicate effectively and before the telephone was invented, the only way to have a conversation was to be in the presence of the person you’re speaking with. Telephones allow people to have conversations over vast distances, you can even make a phone call to the Moon just as Neil Armstrong did when he spoke to President Nixon in 1969 while he made history by being the first man on the Moon, but history was also made by making the 239,000 mile longest distance phone call ever. There are many reasons to make a telephone call over long distances, it could be connecting with friends or family, it could be ordering a product that isn’t produced locally. Verbal communication is one of the things we may take for granted and as far as we know, human beings are the only species that can rationally form words that can be spoken or written. Economies wouldn’t be possible without the ability to communicate and the invention of the telephone had a huge impact on our we conduct our business.

Businesses have come to rely on the telephone immensely, to the point of sending everybody home if the phones are out of service. Modern business cannot function without a telephone system. Customers need to be able to make a call to a business to receive service, employees need to be able to order supplies and communicate with their team members. Michael Staples a journalist with the Daily Gleaner said, “It is hard to find a building of any sort these days that does not have at least one telephone. They have become an integral part of business. By simply pushing a few buttons, instant contact can be made with associates or customers, thus saving companies worldwide trillions of dollars a year in travel costs.” Conference call enable business meetings to be conducted without regard for distance or even time of day. The use of telephones in business has resulted in economic growth that provides many opportunities for people to find work. Without the telephone, the global economy as we know it wouldn’t exist. Online shopping and payment cards are just a couple things we wouldn’t have without the telephone. The infrastructure that supports the telephone network is immense, with telephone cables going from coast to coast and under the oceans.

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Nearly countless hours have been spent building the global telecommunications infrastructure. There are overland, underground and undersea cables connecting the world at the speed of light. Trillions of dollars have been spent and trillions more will be spent in the future to expand and maintain this enormous amount of equipment. Lars-Hendrik Röller and Leonard Waverman, German economists have pointed out that telecommunications infrastructure leads to economic growth. They said, “Telecommunications infrastructure investment can lead to economic growth in several ways. Most obviously, investing in telecommunications infrastructure does itself lead to growth because its products - cable, switches, etc. - lead to increases in the demand for the goods and services used in their production. In addition, the economic returns to telecommunications infrastructure investment are much greater than the returns just on the telecommunication investment itself”. Telecommunications has lead to increased economic prosperity by creating wealth and employment for billions of people. The telephone has even been an impact on urban development and can be said that it could be just as impactful as the elevator on the rise of skyscrapers and urbanization in the 20th century. Even more important than the direct economic effects of the telecommunications industry is how it continues to shape the future by leading to breakthroughs in modern technology.

Our society would be unrecognizable without the internet and cellular telephones. These technologies have penetrated almost every aspect of our everyday lives. Communication over the internet was first made possible by modems connecting to existing telephone infrastructure, in-fact most of today’s broadband users are still using those same copper wires to enable access to their DSL internet connections Cell phones have evolved from simplistic devices that could only send and receive calls, to pocket-sized computers that allow users to perform many of the same tasks that a dedicated desktop or laptop computer system can do. James Gleick of the New York Times states, “Well into its second century, the telephone has begun a transformation more profound than any in its history -- dragging with it much of our other technological baggage, including the computer, the fax machine, the pager, the clock, the compass, the stock ticker and the television.” The internet and the cell phone continue to shape almost every job in the world, from entertainment to national security and emergency services.

It gives many people peace of mind knowing that if an emergency happened, help is just a phone call away. Hundreds of millions of 9-1-1 calls are made every year in the US alone according to the National Emergency Number Association. A journal called Crit Care reports, “Even in the earliest days of voice telecommunications, there was an awareness of the need for means to establish communications in case of emergency or disaster.” Emergency calls can be made for a wide array of reasons, including police, fire, medical attention and disasters. National security is also improved by telecommunications networks, allowing authorities to keep up-to-date information and relay data about potentially dangerous situations.

Without the telephone, our world would be much different and our civilization wouldn’t be as advanced as it is today. We wouldn’t have the ability to communicate over long distances, people of the world would be essentially cut off from each other. The global economy wouldn’t have prospered like it did, enabling many technologies and products to be available worldwide. The infrastructure for telephone communication wouldn’t have been built and we wouldn’t have many technologies that use this valuable infrastructure like the internet Emergency services wouldn’t exist as we know it today and many people would have suffered without the ability to make a phone call for immediate help from police, firefighters and ambulances. The world would be a harder place to live in without telephones and their resultant technological advances, most people make use of telecommunications in their everyday lives which makes the telephone one of the world’s most important inventions.

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