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Dead medium: Mechanical Telephony
From: From:
bjacobs@mintaka.sdsu.edu(Bill Jacobs)

Here are two short contemporary pieces on mechanical telephones.

Source(s): the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Agricultural Almanac for the Year 1879, printed by John Bater's Sons.

"How to Construct a Farmer's Telephone.

"A form which may be called the farmer's telephone for communications less than one thousand feet may be stated for the benefit of agricultural readers, who can easily construct it for themselves.

"Take tape such as is used by the ladies for their dresses, either in long roll or else in pieces sewed together flatwise. Whenever it is necessary to support it, fasten it flatwise to the top of a spiral spring about one and one-half inches long, made by winding close small steel wire round a lead pencil.

"Kerosene lamp chimneys make the best mouth pieces. Over one end stretch a piece of old kid glove or stout paper in the manner of a drum head by winding a string tightly around. Fasten the tape flatwise against the outer surface of the diaphragm of leather or paper thus formed, when conversing keep the tape stretched. The sound vibrations will travel across the supporting points of steel springs without interruption and the flat surface of the tape prevents the musical ring which destroys the distinctiveness in such contrivances made of strings. Such lines of tape can be carried in every direction, round corners, up stairs and down without much affecting the sound except by the distance.

Source(s): Telephone Experiences of Harry J. Curl as told by him to E. T. Mahood, During the summer of 1933 at Kansas City, Missouri.

"First Telephone Experience

"I was born in Elwood, New Jersey April 23, 1863. My father was a telegrapher, as were several of my uncles. In 1879, when I was sixteen years old, my father and I built a pole line one and one-quarter miles long between the railroad station at Elwood, New Jersey, where he was employed as Agent, and our farm, in order to establish what I believe to be one of the first telephone lines in this section of the country.

"We went into Philadelphia to buy some wire. We didn't want to use iron wire and the only copper wire available was #50 soft drawn, which we bought. We suspended this wire from the poles with string loops and at each end connected up an acoustic telephone. These telephones were available in Philadelphia as toys. They had no batteries associated with them and no way of signalling over them.

"They operated by direct physical impulse. When my father wanted to call home, he would start calling 'hello' into his telephone and when we heard it we would answer.

"The transmision was good and we had no difficulty in hearing. We used to invite the neighbors in to hear vocal and instrumental music from the railroad station one and one-quarter miles away. This was the first telephone experience that I had. The copper wire sagged between poles quite a bit and we frequently had to go out and pull it up and cut out a lot of the slack and, of course, in time its diameter shrunk to such an extent that we had to take it down."

Bill Jacobs \ bjacobs@mintaka.sdsu.edu / killing time in Delaware