Alexander Graham Bell's Cell Phone?

By Alexis C. Madrigal

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After we ran a gallery of Alexander Graham Bell's sketches, reader Chuck McManis wrote in to make a fascinating connection between two of the drawings. Taken together, they depict a conceptual design for "what you and I would call a cell phone," McManis writes. Here's his comment:

One of the things you missed (but not to worry you're not a EE) is that the two pages in the slide show "SELF PORTRAIT" [above] and "CABLE GUY" [below] are related.  Specifically they were Bell thinking about what you and I would call a cell phone :-). At the time of these notebooks there was a tremendous amount of discovery and research around radio and radio waves. In many ways radio waves were to the late 19th century what semiconductors were to the late 20th century.  In SELF PORTRAIT Bell shows a person speaking into a microphone which modulates a current in the loop of wire they are carrying. In CABLE GUY another person who is holding a loop of wire can "hear" the speaking at a distance because the newly discovered 'radio waves' had traveled between them. In fact, what Bell was imagining would have required magnetic coupling between the two coils but he was thinking around the edges of what would become one of the greatest "agents of change" of his generation.

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/03/alexander-graham-bells-cell-phone/72928/