From Smoke to Text: What's Next?


Questions and Answers



Whose voice do you want to hear when you're lonely?
You probably want to talk to a family member or close friend.

From 1840 to 1890 pioneers migrated to unsettled lands of the West. They left family, friends and home hoping for a better life. Most knew they would never see their loved ones or hear their voices again. Aren't you glad you can hear the voices of the people you love, no matter where they are?

In the 1840s and 1850s letters took several weeks or months to reach Europe or destinations west of the Mississippi River. Delivery in the West was slow, expensive and undependable whether by Pony Express or stagecoach.

In 1861 Western Union's transcontinental telegraph line sent messages immediately to major cities. Messages then had to be decoded and hand-delivered to the recipient. When the transcontinental railroad opened in 1869, mail could travel at more reasonable cost in just a week or 10 days.

In 1915 a phone call was made across North America and in 1927 across the Atlantic Ocean. Pioneers could finally hear loved voices again.

How much would your monthly bill be if you paid $155 per text message?
On Oct. 10, 2010 the New York Times reported that an average U.S. teenager sends more than six text messages every waking hour. Nielsen analyzed mobile phone use by 13- to 17-year olds and found that teenagers make fewer voice calls than adults, but teenagers send 4,050 text messages a month, or eight each waking hour.

At $155 per message, you would pay $627,750 per month.

Why do we say "Hello" when we answer a ringing phone?
Alexander Graham Bell's 1876 invention gave us the new word "telephone" and later the greeting "hello." Bell initially used "ahoy" (as used on ships) as a greeting. The use of hello as a telephone greeting has been credited to Thomas Edison. In 1887 Edison wrote to T.B.A. David, the president of the Central District and Printing Telegraph Company of Pittsburgh: "Friend David, I do not think we shall need a call bell as Hello! can be heard 10 to 20 feet away. What do you think?"

Why do we say "I'm dialing the number" when we make a call?
The first telephone sets that allowed you to connect the call yourself had a dial. The caller had to rotate the dial to enter each number. Today you touch numbers on a keypad.

Why do we ask where the person is when we call someone?
Before mobile phones, we knew where the person we called was answering the phone because it was "hardwired" to a line in a building. Today the person you call may be anywhere in the world.

Prepared by The Telecommunications History Group, Inc. Visit us at www.telcomhist.org.