Probably no means of communication has changed the daily lives of people more than the telephone. When the telecommunications revolution began over a century ago, no one could have predicted it would lead to an instrument in nearly every household in the industrialized nations. Since its invention in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone evolved along with the technology of the time. It has revolutionized the way we live, socialize, and conduct business. Its ultimate potential, however, was less than apparent to 19th century society. In the late 1800's, William A. Orton, president of Western Union, was approached with the offer of buying Bell's patent for $100,000; he is most remembered for his words, "What use could this company make of an electronic toy?- (William).
In order to understand Orton's lack of foresight, an understanding must be made that at the time of Bell's telephone, the telegraph dominated the communications industry. Since the telegraph system already had a fifty-year lead over the telephone system, William Orton could not see that the potential for two-way, person-to-person communication, nor the psychological advantage of a human voice instead of impersonal dots and dashes. Orton's view of the telephone was not alone as 19th century society took at least a decade to fully understand the invention and implement a useful system for the new technology. Bell took his invention on the road, demonstrating it to the public. The more exposure the public received of this new technology, the more apparent was the death of the telegraph. Although the telegraph was a highly successful system, it was limited to sending and receiving one message at a time. Bell's success with the telephone came as a direct result of his attempts to improve the telegraph (Bellis).
Bell had a never-ending scientific curiosity, and on June 3, 1880, he transmitted the first wireless telephone message on his new invention, the photophone.