Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Montage of images and link description. The Telephone Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience

People & Events

Thomas Alva Edison



While not exactly a rival of Alexander Graham Bell's, Thomas Edison's work in the field of telegraphy nevertheless prompted Bell to work ever harder in perfecting his own ideas. Contracted by Western Union Telegraph Company, Edison was busily working to develop the harmonic telegraph. Through his efforts, Edison, like Gray, drew closer and closer to hitting upon the invention of a "speaking telegraph," or telephone. And while it was finally Bell who scored that coup, Edison's 1877 invention of the carbon-button transmitter proved to be a necessary component of successful telephone communication. To this day the carbon-button transmitter is used in telephone speakers and microphones.

Edison's input in the evolution of telephone communication is also evident in the very way people have come to answer the phone. According to his biographer Margaret Cousins, it was an impatient Edison who, too rushed to employ the then common, "Are you there?," first shouted, "Hello!" into the receiver. His countrymen soon took note of this manner of telephone etiquette and adopted the one word greeting as their own.

previous | return to people & events list | next