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YOU KNOW YOU'RE OLD WHEN...

by Rose-Mary Rumbley


You know you're old when you remember "dialing" a number on your phone!

I chose this thought because I wanted to share with you the Alexander Graham Bell story. His inventing the telephone is a very inspiring narrative.

Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1847. His mother was deaf, so he learned sign language as a child, and too, he was always interested and concerned about those who could not hear. So it was not surprising that he met and married a woman who was deaf.

As a young person, Alexander studied elocution--his father the teacher. I too studied elocution. The younger set does not know the meaning of the word "elocution." One might say, it's a fancy word for speech, but it's much more than that. It's the study of the voice, vocal sound, enunciation, pronunciation, etc. One studied elocution to have "golden, rounded tones!" HOW NOW BROWN COW! SHE SELLS SEA SHELLS BY THE SEA SHORE! We speech students were directed to recite these "tongue twisters." One must be heard and understood! One could not mumble! Good speech was an art form!

When I majored in speech at UNT, I had one of those "left over" elocutionist as a teacher. Every word was a jewel--beautifully pronounced! I didn't quite go so much into the elocutionary field in my teaching of speech at DBU, however, I preached to my classes that good speech is still preferred. Today, at my age my hearing is failing, so I enjoy listening to one who speaks distinctly.

We can conclude that Bell had two passions--helping the deaf and inventing. He and his family left Scotland and moved to Canada and then on to Boston. It was here he met a young mechanic, Thomas Watson, who helped him with his experiments in sending the human voice over the telegraph wire.

On March 10, 1876, a very exciting event took place in the Bell lab. Alexander was working with electric currents, switches, and reeds, when he was ready to test a new transmitter he had designed. He spilled some battery acid on his cloths, and called out, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!" Watson rushed from another room to Bell, not with alarm, but with excitement. He had heard Bell's call on their instrument (invention)! It was the first time words ever traveled over a wire!! Alexander Graham Bell had just given the world the telephone!

The next year, the young inventor launched the Bell Telephone Company, which grew into one of the world's largest corporations. But Bell had little interest in business. He spent the rest of his life coming up with new ideas and finding ways to help the deaf. He became a proud US citizen in 1882 and is still remembered as one of America's greatest inventors.

I've always wondered how Bell would react to his "phone" now! In the beginning days of the telephone, one would have to go through an "operator" to reach a party on the line. And too, callers had party lines. One shared his line with a neighbor. I loved this scene as a kid. We listened in on our neighbor's conversations which were boring, but we thought we were really on to something when we listened in on a private call!

Improvements were made and one could dial directly...locally. To call long distance one had to go through "central" and then on to the long distance number. None of that today. Direct dial will get you anyone anywhere. Then these new "phones" do everything else. One can send and/or receive a picture, and one can see a video or a movie on the phone! This phone that can be held in one hand has no limits as far as communication is concerned. The world is right there at one's fingertips.

I have a feeling that Alexander Graham Bell would be very pleased with his discovery!


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