Celebrate the telephone on the birth of its inventor
What: It has been 135 years since the invention of the telephone, and our relationship with it is still complex and ever-changing. The switchboard and rotary dialer now seem quaint in light of the fact that 27 percent of Americans rely solely on cell phones rather than a landline. On March 3, celebrate Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone and where that technology has taken us.
Background: Born in Scotland in 1847, Bell is most widely known for the invention of the telephone. But he also invented the metal detector, made advances in aeronautics and hydrofoils and considered his life’s work to be teaching and aiding the deaf. Though many came close to creating the telephone, it was Bell who first converted sound to an electrical signal and back again with the use of an electromagnetic transmitter he patented in 1876.
Story Pitch: The average cell phone’s constant and growing presence as part of the Internet and new media put it on the leading edge of consumer technology and culture. The telecommunications industry should take this anniversary to discuss and promote their professional and public advances in the field. Professionals in telecommunications will want to focus on how they’re addressing new media and means of communication to stay relevant. On the consumer level, those in telecommunications should promote efforts to make new advances and devices more accessible and easy to use. The deaf community also has a chance to help spread information about resources available to the hearing impaired and advances in education and communication. Similarly, the little known details of Bell’s work with the deaf can serve as an interesting starting point for others to learn about obstacles and prejudices that still face the hearing impaired.
Story Hook: At a time when cell phones have essentially become personal computers, there are still approximately 4 million adult Americans who have no phone at all. Whether or not this is by choice, it still raises interesting issues of access and communication in our society. What’s being done to ensure that all people have adequate access to phones or the Internet? Keep the following in mind when making your pitch:
- How does limited or no access to phones or the Internet affect someone’s life?
- What efforts are being made to make people safer and more courteous cell phone users?
- How are people reacting and adapting to the ubiquitous nature of cell phones in society?
- What are the next major advances in cell phones and other telecommunications?
- How have techniques for aiding the deaf changed or stayed the same since Bell’s time?
Tips: People at the extremes of telecommunication use may make interesting contacts, and can range from antique phone collectors to smartphone fanatics.
The Alexander Graham Bell Institute at Cape Breton University
International Telecommunication Union
National Association of the Deaf
Telecommunications Virtual Museum
–Researched, compiled & written by Nicholas Testa
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