Ah, the omnipresent telephone! Since its invention in 1876, fewer inventions have become so widely used by more people on the planet. Some people have said that there are 3 telephones for every person on earth these days. The convenience and power of these little devices would astound someone from even 40 years ago. In the late 1800s, as the new telephone technology was starting to become more and more widespread, even popular music helped the spread of the device:
Hello, my baby. Hello, my honey. Hello, my Ragtime Gal. Send me a kiss by wire. Baby, my heart’s on fire! If you refuse me, honey you’ll lose me. Soon, you’ll be all alone. Oh, baby! Telephone, and tell me I’m your own.
And that was 1899.
Businesses first, of course, capitalized on the instant communicative abilities brought about by the phone. Soon, telephone wires crisscrossed most major cities as phones began to quickly replace messengers and errand boys. Some old-fashioned business tycoons, however, refused to embrace the new technology.
One such business tycoon in the late 1800s dug in his heels and refused to jump on the telephone bandwagon. Writing to one of her husband’s business associates after his death, this man’s wife commented on her husband’s reluctance to have a phone in his study, saying, “Of course, he never had one in his study. That was where he went when he wanted to be alone with his thoughts and his work.”
For this important businessman, the telephone, of course, meant intrusion from the outside world. He felt strongly that the phone kept him from having conversations with people he was with. For this and other reasons, the phone irritated the important man. He preferred to have others send and receive phone messages if they were crucial to his work. In fact, he came to almost hate the device.
Yet, the man was not so much of a curmudgeon that he did not have a phone in the house for use by others. He was astute enough to realize that, for someone of his importance and for the sake of his business, the phone kept him in close touch with other businessmen and companies, with doctors and neighbors, and with the telegraph office. It was simply that he, himself, did not care for the invention that was sweeping the globe.
Which is ironic, perhaps.
Because, as his wife pointed out, Alexander Graham Bell did like to say, “Why did I ever invent the Telephone?”