It was on this day in 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell, then 29, received a patent for a nice improvement on the telegraph that you and I know as the telephone.
At first, Bell holds back the most exciting part of his idea. He details how electrical impulses could be converted into "vibrations of different pitch" without necessarily saying, "You talk in this end and it comes out the other end of a wire!" But by the third page of his patent filing, you sense he bubbled over, permitting himself one paragraph to think about the awesome implications of what he'd done:
I desire here to remark that there are many other uses to which these instruments may be put, such as the transmission of musical notes, differing in loudness as well as pitch, and the telegraphic transmission of noises or sounds of any kind.
Thanks to the Library of Congress, we have access to a lot of Bell's papers including this wonderful sketch of the telephone, which he drew in 1876. You know what I really love about it? Even though this was clearly a functional drawing, Bell took the time to give the hair on the little guy some texture and even the hint of a tie. I like to think that's because he was imagining *himself* there, not just the technology.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.