The bigness of the telephone interests, present and prospective, of this country is certainly best understood by the engineers. These men of figures and forecasts, whose every-day speech abounds in references to loads, insulations, and relays, have, as is well known, magnificent ideas as to the future of the industry they are building up. Already they are basing their estimates of necessary construction upon a probable twenty percent development within the next two or three decades—a prediction which means, in everyday speech, that by 1930 or 1935 there should be, if the present rate of expansion continues, one telephone for every five people in the United States, or, as it has been otherwise expressed, a telephone to every other family and as many more in places of business.
A guarantee of the essential correctness of this prediction they believe to have been established by experience. Estimates of the progress of this industry upon which experts are willing to recommend the expenditure of vast sums of money in 1905 would have been regarded as hopelessly visionary twenty years ago. The telephone-using capacity of civilized man is in fact only beginning to be appreciated. Not longer ago than 1889 it was held that when, at some time in the remote future, there should be three telephones to every one hundred people in the United States, the limit of saturation would have been reached. Of course, a somewhat more liberal use than this of the convenient instrument was expected in the cities, large and small, but no one foresaw either the extension which has taken place of farmers’ lines and ranchmen's lines into the remotest districts of the land, or the universal popularity which the utility has of late years taken on in the great cities.