First Transcontinental Phone Call: A 100-Year Celebration

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

100 years since first coast-to-coast phone call.

Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of what is often called the first transcontinental phone call, made by iconic communications inventor Alexander Graham Bell, in New York, to his assistant Thomas Watson, all the way out in San Francisco. The great American milestone, demonstrated in advance of the 1915 World’s Fair, spurred a century of innovation in the telecommunications industry and helped showcase San Francisco’s “rebirth” following the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. Bell’s groundbreaking call was made possible in 1915 by the American Telephone and Telegraph company – a firm now more widely known as simply AT&T – and the modern version of the company is commemorating the event by a year of promotions.

The conversation, which eventually included President Woodrow Wilson from the White House and AT&T President Theodore Vail from Jekyll Island, Ga., was the first coast-to-coast call. In 1915 a three minute call cost $20.70, which might seem exorbitant until you adjust for inflation – in 2015 dollars that same call would cost you something close to $485. On the evening of Jan. 25, 1915, transcontinental service was opened up to the public for the first time, at a cost that makes today’s cellular rates look like a steal. Meanwhile, the sheer infrastructure involved in Bell’s call across the country – something that’s commonplace today – involved a massive network of 3,400 miles of copper wire strung across 130,000 telephone poles. Do you hear me?” Bell was also the man behind the very first phone call of all time, which took place on March 10, 1876 — 39 years prior to the transcontinental conversation.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) helps millions of people and businesses around the globe stay connected through leading wireless, high-speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. We’re helping people mobilize their worlds with state-of-the-art communications, entertainment services and amazing innovations like connected cars and devices for homes, offices and points in between.

And this was in 1915, which means few roads and very little in the way of trucks or construction equipment availble to set up the infrastructure for this call. Now, between satellite and cell technology there’s no longer a need for thousands of miles of unbroken copper lines criss-crossing the country, though landline technology is certainly still used even in this day and age. Where the level of communications technology may be in another 100 years is of course anyone’s guess, but it will likely make today’s innovations look as antiquated as Bell’s original call to San Francisco looks to us today. The whole thing was greeted with a little less fanfare than the transcontinental railroad, but it might have actually meant more to the United States. With smartphones and wireless networks, our devices and infrastructure may have changed dramatically, but the telephone’s role in society keeps growing.

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