Literature on Telephony

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Telephony is not a major interest of mine. Although I admire Alexander Graham Bell, I do not care for his most famous invention (his aircraft and hydroplanes, on the other hand, were fascinating). The telephone is an inherently rude instrument, and no civilization which relies upon it can in fact be civilized.

Still, the telephone remains the most popular of the various obsolete Victorian inventions which continue to plague us (neither aviation nor the automobile were Victorian inventions; they date to the Eighteenth Century). Moreover, at times the literature of the telephone is useful in the study of the far superior telecommunications media of the telegraph and teletype. In this Notebook I'll collect just a few items from the literature of telephony which have a wider application.

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Here's proof that the telephone is obsolete. Below is an illustration of the offices of the journal American Machinist in about 1880. Given its focus on industry, this journal would have been quite up-to-date. Yet this is a quaint scene; everywhere it shows the technologies and the business practices of the past. We see the bookkeeper still standing, in a style soon to be abandoned. He would be using a steel-nibbed dip pen. There are roll-top desks with pigeon-holes, soon to be discarded for modern filing systems. Lighting is by gas. There is not a typewriter to be seen - it had only recently been invented had not yet been widely adopted. Child labor laws were a thing not even anticipated. The spittoon was a necessary office furnishing. There is a telephone upon the wall.

The telephone antedated the typewriter in its commercial adoption, and yet we have long since abandoned the typewriter in the 21st century. Surely we should cast the telephone upon the dustheap of history alongside the gaslight, the dip pen, and the spittoon.

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(The image above, when clicked upon, links to a 2048 pixel wide JPEG reduced-size version of this scan. Here is the original 1200dpi scan (35 Megabytes): colvin-duffin-60-years-1200rgb-illustration-039-crop-5334x4026.png )

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US Army Signal Corps Publications

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Central Office