I Remember Mama . . . Bell

More

Many newspapers now run only paid memorial announcements, but the New York Times is one of a few that still publish professionally written obituaries to die for. My most recent favorite is Margalit Fox on the violin maker Carleen Hutchins.


Mrs. Hutchins was known for her pragmatism. In 1957 her friend Virginia Apgar, a doctor and amateur violinmaker, began to covet a shelf made of perfect maple. The shelf was in a phone booth in the medical school of Columbia University, where Dr. Apgar taught.

One night she and Mrs. Hutchins stole into the building with some tools and a replacement shelf, stained to match. As Dr. Apgar stood guard, Mrs. Hutchins set to work.

It gets better, but what really got to me was that the old Bell Telephone System, whatever else you could say about it, had standards that consumers took for granted. To think that before mobile phones, generations of Americans scribbled their notes on slabs of luthier-grade hardwood without knowing it.

And don't miss the Times's link to Dr. Apgar's page at the National Library of Medicine.


Jump to comments
Presented by

Edward Tenner is a historian of technology and culture, and an affiliate of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a founding advisor of Smithsonian's Lemelson Center.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Hunting With Poison Darts

An indigenous forest dweller in Borneo explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

From This Author

Just In