Home » Archive by category 'History'

What is Contact Center Agent Elevation?

An image of contact center agent elevation.

The process of contact center agent elevation, also known as escalation, is one of the quickest ways to address customer expectations and queries. As customers want quick and tailored solutions, …Read More »

Global Call Forwarding Releases an Updated Softphone with New Features and Integrations

softphone PR

Global Call Forwarding has released an updated GCF Softphone for Windows users. DELRAY BEACH, FL, Jan 2024 The new softphone is designed to improve business communication, facilitate efficient calling experiences, …Read More »

How to Establish a Local Presence in Lakshadweep?

An image showing business expansion to lakshadweep.

Collaborated with Vasudha K Thinking of expanding your business to South Asia? Consider Lakshadweep’s scenic and promising shores. Situated near international shipping ports like Karnataka, this archipelago beckons with untapped …Read More »

Phone Number Testing: Benefits and How to Do It

An image of our guide to business phone number testing.

Many of the insights for this article came from a breakout session at Cyara Xchange 2024. Global Call Forwarding also uses the Cyara Voice Assure product. Despite the emergence of …Read More »

How Forex Companies Use Virtual Numbers (5 Use Cases)

how forex uses virtual numbers

The forex market is inherently international as it involves the exchange of global currencies. While the forex market has no central location, most traders are in major financial centers and …Read More »

Nigeria Phone Number Guide: An Explainer

nigeria phone guide

A Nigeria phone number is a vital asset for businesses looking to make their mark in the heart of West Africa. With a population exceeding 200 million, Nigeria offers a …Read More »

The History of Toll Free Numbers

Many successful businesses today subscribe to a toll-free number service.

A toll-free number allows callers to reach an individual or business without needing to pay for the call. Businesses will often advertise their toll-free numbers as a free way of calling because the toll-free subscriber pays for the call.

Before the existence of toll-free numbers, the only way to call long-distance for “free” was to place a collect call. Some people still place collect calls from a payphone or a prison phone, but collect calling is now almost extinct.

Manual toll-free systems

Collect calling was the first real means of reverse charging phone calls.

In a collect call, the calling party would place a call to the operator (press ‘0’) and ask the operator to reverse charge the call. Next, the operator would manually dial the other party, provide the caller’s name, and ask if the called party accepted the call and the call’s fee.

It was still impossible to call another country at this time!

Many telephone companies provided this manual version of free calling. However, the process of reverse charging thousands of phone calls was taxing on the phone company’s staff.


AT&T rolled out a new service called InWATS as an alternative to operator-assisted collect calling in 1966.

InWATS was primitive, lacking the complex routing features provided by modern toll-free services and with no access to call detail records.

800 numbers were little more than a novelty. Some companies owned toll-free numbers, but AT&T had a monopoly and charged a premium for the service.

Customers were required to sign up for a fixed-rate bulk service that required special trunks. The service was suited to large volume users.

It wasn’t until competitors entered the game that toll-free numbers for business became commonplace.

End of a monopoly

In 1984, a federal judge ordered the monopoly formerly known as “Ma Bell” to split into seven different regional companies called “Baby Bells”.

Competition caused rates to drop, and 1-800 numbers became more affordable than ever.

Most businesses owned 800 numbers. So many numbers were in use that area codes were born.

Modern direct-dial systems

After the transition from a manual switching system to a computerized system in 1966, toll-free calls could be routed based on instructions found in a central database. 800 calls could be directed anywhere.

Vanity numbers came into existence shortly after the dissolution of Ma Bell. Vanity phone numbers allowed users to choose their own phone numbers. Clever vanity numbers were created like 1-800-BUY-BEER.

Then a law was passed that guaranteed number portability in 1994. This law ensured that a company could keep its vanity number or toll-free number when changing providers.

800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, 8-X-X?

The demand for toll-free numbers skyrocketed in the 1990s, exceeding the supply of 800 numbers.

To satisfy the market, 888 numbers were created in 1996. 877 and 866 numbers became available in 1998 and 1999. 855 debuted in 2010.

There is such a vast market for toll-free numbers that new toll-free prefixes have been created. Surely, the demand for the six prefixes will one day outpace the supply and a new prefix will be available as a toll-free number.

Toll-free numbers today

While the internet and email have drastically altered business communication, toll-free numbers for business are still very effective. A toll-free number enables a business to project a professional image. In addition, toll-free numbers allow customers to call the business for free.

Collect calling gave way to toll-free services and long-distance communication was altered forever.

Toll Free Number Providers

How Toll Free Numbers Can Save Your Startup

According to Forbes, 90% of startups fail. That’s a staggering number, considering how many new companies try to get off the ground every year.

In the United States, startups are becoming more and more common. There’s a lot that goes into these businesses, too. Finding the right products, creating a marketing plan, securing funding, and exacting a location can take months or even years to prepare. Many people choose to leave the stability of their “9 to 5” job just so they can chase this dream. This is why it’s so important to make sure every detail of your startup is just right.

Sometimes new entrepreneurs feel like they’re constantly fighting an uphill battle to become profitable. Not only are they competing with other startups and mid-size companies, but they are going up against large organizations with greater resources. All of them are clamoring for the same customer base.

As a startup you have to establish an advantage for yourself, otherwise you may face a shutdown, or even worse, bankruptcy. So how can you differentiate yourself in the market and get clients to spend their hard earned money on your products and services?

Small Brand, Big Branding

Your brand is small now, but you don’t want to be seen as small. That’s why it’s all about brand recognition. You may have heard it said that a consumer needs to hear your company’s messaging at least seven times before finally making a purchase. One way to do this is through having an easy to remember toll free number. It doesn’t matter if you’re only one person working the business or a group of twenty, an 800 number shows that you’re a small company that means big business. By fielding client inquiries and making sales calls from a toll free number provider, you instantly increase your “presence” and make yourself look like a real organization.

You may have heard of vanity numbers before, which can be a local or toll free number. For instance, 1-800-FLOWERS, 1-800-PET-FOOD, and 1-800-ATTORNEY are pretty popular ones that come to mind. Vanity numbers help people remember your name faster than your competitors’! You can choose a vanity toll free number that works just as well for your startup, allowing you to give the impression of being well established. Your vanity number should be a word or short phrase that’s catchy and relates to your industry. Toll free number providers can conduct a search to make sure your perfect number hasn’t already been taken.

An 800 toll free number is also great for startups that provide products and services all across the country regardless of location. So for example, if your main startup office is based in Miami, Florida, you don’t want Los Angeles, California clients to know your Miami area code. They may think you’re too “small” or too far away to give them what they need. Toll free numbers show that your company is accessible from literally anywhere.

Get More Client Satisfaction

One of the biggest struggles a startup can face is how to achieve customer satisfaction. Even just a few unhappy customers at the beginning of your business can really hurt your company, especially if they leave unhappy reviews online for others to read. People associate toll free numbers with credibility and professionalism. There’s an aesthetic appeal that comes with getting an 800 number. They give everyone the impression that you’re in it for the long haul and are dedicated to excellent customer service.

Toll free number providers help connect your toll free numbers to the lines of your choice. So no matter where you are, everyone can reach you on a portable 800 number without needing to change your extension. If your startup has a call center overseas, then toll free number providers give people a way to reach your brand twenty-four seven. They can call no matter what time of day it is, whether it’s 2pm or 4am, and anywhere in between. No one has to face an answering machine and can get their issues resolved quickly.

Make Your Job Easier

Startup owners have many uneasy responsibilities when growing their company. They must make difficult decisions that can change the course of their entire business model. Just one of these decisions is properly understanding how to make the most out of their limited marketing budgets before they run out of funding.

As we stated earlier, toll free numbers are also digital. This means each 800 number you receive can be tracked for sales and marketing purposes. So for instance, if you set up several lines in one city, you can test them against each other and see which ones serve your startup best. If a line just isn’t working out, you can cut it with no further issues.

Toll free number providers can also help you scale your startup correctly. You may have one working line now, but what happens when you have a sudden and unexpected surge of callers? Your company needs to have the right infrastructure to make it work. So if you’re fine using a personal cell phone line for now, this method will not hold you for long. Otherwise customers will always get a busy signal or answering machine when trying to connect with you. When paired with just the right amount of manpower, toll free numbers scale your business by handling a much larger call volume.

Want to take a break from the office life? Even startup owners need a vacation now and then to refresh their creative side, and you don’t have to feel guilty about doing it. Toll free number providers can help you forward the 800 number to any landline or cell phone. Customers can freely call any other member of your team and you won’t have to be bothered if you’re out of town.

Contact Global Call Forwarding

Are you ready to give your startup the push it needs to be a part of the thriving 10% to success? Global Call Forwarding is a toll free number provider with years of experience helping startups turn into large businesses and international corporations. Contact a member of our team today for assistance if you’re interested in purchasing toll free numbers for all of your business needs or order here on our website for a free trial and instant activation.

International Phone Calls Are Illegal In North Korea

North Korea has been in the news for many years for reasons that are far from positive. The country has remained in the spotlight due to the approach of the government toward international relations under Kim Jung Un’s rule.

Several issues such as the crisis between North and South Korea, the nuclear program and testing, and a gross violation of human rights and freedoms, have all been in the forefront of the country’s reputation.

There are necessities that are being enjoyed by the rest of the world, for example, public access to communication in North Korea, which are extremely monitored by the government. Another instance, as far as North Korea telecommunications is concerned, is in regards to the fact that international phone calls are illegal in North Korea. There is also a very strict regulation of any usage of technology in North Korea.

Why Are International Phone Calls Illegal In North Korea ?

The North Korean government holds the use of communication technology in the country with a very tight grip, especially to countries that are referred to as “enemies.” This was revealed in a report by Amnesty International.

North Korea has a popular mobile phone service which serves more than 3 million subscribers. But international phone calls are not permitted on this network as it is restricted to only local calls.

Only a select few citizens and foreigners are allowed access to the internet. However, some North Koreans have access to a closed-off network which can connect to only domestic websites and email services that are also closely monitored by the government.

Ordinary North Koreans are not allowed to use mobile phones to call members of their families who have defected as they risk being sent to detention camps or political prisons.

“Nothing can ever justify people being thrown in detention for trying to fulfill a basic human need – to connect with their family and friends” stated Arnold Fang, an East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

The restrictions by the North Korean Government on international phone calls as well as information coming from outside reveals the intimidation and oppression of the North Korean populace since Kim Jung Un became the leader in 2011.

Arnold Fang also states, “To maintain their absolute and systematic control, the North Korean authorities are striking back against people using mobile phones to contact family abroad.”

Several reports have affirmed that the North Korean government sees the absolute control of communication in the country as a weapon by which they can suppress the voices of the people. Their stance on international calls and communication technology is in a bid to obscure the realities and information about the extent of human rights violations in the country.

Most people who have fled the country often live in a constant state of fear due to not knowing the situation of their families. The inability to contact their loved ones leaves both parties in the dark about whether they are alive or dead, imprisoned or being investigated.  

south korea call forwarding

How Do North Koreans Communicate With The Outside World?

Many North Koreans have relied on the booming private economy to gain access to smuggled clothing, food, and other goods from China. Along with this trend includes the smuggling of mobile phones and SIM cards. This practice is however not without great risks.

In a 2016 report by the New York Times, it was revealed that North Koreans have had to rely on smuggled-in mobile phones from China in order to connect to the rest of the world. People who live near the border with China are at an advantage as they can easily take advantage of some of China’s mobile networks to make international phone calls. For people in other areas, however, the ability to communicate with the outside world is much less easily done.

Government Crackdown on Illegal China Phones

Making calls at the border has become increasingly difficult to take advantage of as Kim Jung Un ordered that there be more measures put in place to prevent the exchange of information between North Korea and the outside world. This major government move has also cut down the number of North Koreans defecting to South Korea from 2,914 in 2009 to about 1,276 last year (Source: New York Times).

The North Korean government strengthened the crackdown on mobile phones that are being smuggled in from China with measures such as deploying surveillance devices and more soldiers along the border. High tech devices that jam communication signals have been deployed and used to trace calls back to those who used the banned mobile phones. The level of risk involved is massive, and North Korea has no issue going to the most drastic measures possible to halt the ability of their nation to communicate with those beyond their country’s borders.

Arrests and Incarceration

There is always a high price to pay whenever someone gets caught making illegal international phone calls in North Korea using smuggled Chinese mobile phones. Those who get caught are often sent to reform facilities and prison camps. In some cases, they are made to pay a certain fee as a bribe, if they have connections to influential people. According to several interviews by amnesty international, it appears that bribery is the motive behind many arrests.

Being sent to a reform facility is usually seen as a better scenario as this means a person would spend only about a year or two. Many people have been released with the assistance of bribing. Political prison camps are seen as much worse cases because they carry a longer, harsher sentence.

For those willing to take the risk, creativity and ingenuity are used. Many North Koreans who have a need to make international phone calls often come up with methods to avoid detection. When making international phone calls, they make use of pseudonyms and kept their conversations very short. Sometimes they climb up remote mountains to prevent their calls from being jammed or from being spotted while making illegal international phone calls.

The High Price of Communication

The imminent desperation and need for communication with the outside world has given rise to middlemen who offer the service to those who do not own a Chinese mobile phone. These middlemen get paid to set up phone calls so that the communication can be executed. This style of broker system is also used by defectors to send money to their families in North Korea.

Generally, the cost for this service can be quite high. The middlemen can take up to 30% of every USD1000 cash transfer as commission. However, the downside is that there are no guarantees that the money will reach the recipients. This is due to the fact that security agents are always on a mission to intercept money transfers, whenever possible.

There are also cases where family members send Chinese mobile phones, SIM cards, and money by bribing border patrol agents. With an increasingly tightened border, the bribes also tend to increase in value, reaching as high as USD500 per instance.

Despite the difficulties and dangers involved, communication comes at a high price for North Koreans with the ability and need to gain access to it.

What is a Toll Free Number?

Toll-free numbers can help bring more customers and clients to your company by providing them with an easy and free way to connect. A toll-free number helps you reach a wider audience, both locally and internationally.

Here is a comprehensive guide to toll-free numbers for business and their benefits.

Toll-Free Number: Definition and How it Works?

A toll-free number is a business phone number that customers can call for free. These numbers have a distinct code as their prefix to distinguish them from other number types.

For example, the US has 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, 833, and 800 numbers, while the UK has 0808 and 0800 freephone numbers. Other countries use different toll-free number prefixes. However, an 800 number is the most common prefix used across the globe.

To use such a number, businesses subscribe to a toll-free forwarding service that can forward incoming calls from anywhere to any device or location. This way, businesses bear inexpensive calling costs while giving customers a free calling option.

History of Toll-Free Services

AT&T introduced automated 800 services in 1966 for intrastate calls and in 1967 for interstate calls through a system called Inward Wide Area Telephone Service (InWATS).

The issuance of US Patent 4191860A on March 4, 1980, to Roy P Weber of Bell Telephone Laboratories, allowed AT&T to replace the InWATS system. The FCC is responsible for regulating the use of such free calling numbers.

At the time, long-distance calls were expensive. However, this new processing method reduced costs significantly. Further, it allowed small businesses to subscribe to 800 services. As advancements in telecommunications continued, toll-free international calls using call forwarding became available to businesses.

What Are Hosted Toll-Free Numbers?

Virtual or hosted toll-free numbers use international call forwarding to route calls via the internet. Through this process, businesses are able to connect with international clientele through international toll-free numbers (ITFN) without paying expensive international calling rates.

The following steps outline the process for connecting virtual 800 calls.

  1. The caller makes the call by dialing the number.
  2. The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or call forwarding service receives the call.
  3. This call is then routed to a different line or number based on predetermined rules set by you or the account manager.
  4. Finally, the call reaches the designated destination.

Different Types of Toll-Free Numbers

There are a few different types of toll-free numbers. All of these numbers do the same thing: they encourage customers to call for free. However, there are a few differences in terms of how they reach customers:

1. Vanity 800 Numbers

A vanity 800 number uses patterns or letters to create a memorable and easy-to-recognize phone number. Popular examples are 800-GOT-JUNK, 1-800-T-MOBILE, or 1-800-WALGREENS. Vanity numbers with patterns would look like this: 800-222-2223 or 888-465-4655. The point is to use a business number creatively to make a strong impression on viewers.

2. Domestic Toll-Free Numbers

A domestic toll-free number of a country is accessible to callers from within that country. These are often called true “800 numbers” and enable toll-free calling within a country. For example, Australian residents can call an 1800 Australian toll-free number for free from inside the country. Additionally, domestic toll-free numbers do not incur additional fees when called from mobile or payphones.

3. International Toll Free Numbers (ITFNs)

ITFNs or ITFS numbers are toll free numbers for different countries. You can get an international toll-free number for almost any country or market you want to expand operations to. Incoming calls to these numbers can be forwarded to any device or location of your choice through international call forwarding. This is a helpful option for companies with a wide international reach or those that want to take their business global.

For example, say your company is located in the US, but you want to connect with UK or Singapore customers. You can purchase UK or Singapore toll-free numbers from a toll-free number provider like Global Call Forwarding. With these numbers, residents from these countries can call your business for free, even if you are not located in or have field offices in those countries. And incoming calls will ring at your main office in the US.

Related: How Much Does an International Toll-Free Number Cost? [2023]

4. Universal International Freephone Numbers

Many business owners want to know if they can purchase toll-free numbers that are free to call from anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, global toll-free numbers, in this sense, do not exist.

However, companies have the option of using a universal international freephone number (UIFN). This is a single toll-free number for multiple countries (up to 65) that participate in the UIFN program, organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

There are a few restrictions and complications involved in getting a UIFN; speak with our representatives to learn more.

Benefits of Toll-Free Numbers

So, why does your business need 800 numbers?

Communication and marketing studies have consistently shown that ITFS numbers are beneficial to businesses by enabling them to maintain connections with customers from across the world. An 800 number gives a business the opportunity to create a virtual or local presence in various cities, states, and countries.

Customers have one easy-to-dial and free number to call, and the calls reach the appropriate destinations quickly via call forwarding. This encourages interested prospects and long-term customers to maintain contact with a business. Such communication is necessary for continued sales growth.

Additionally, virtual toll-free numbers come packed with useful communication tools such as:

  • Call forwarding options like simultaneous or sequential ringing, select country forwarding, time-based forwarding, etc.
  • Inbound and outbound call recording
  • IVR systems and extensions
  • Outbound calling with a dynamic caller ID

Do Toll-Free Numbers Work Internationally?

Businesses that wish to expand globally or provide customer support to their international clientele can use 800 numbers and ITFNs that work internationally. With these 800 numbers, your customers in target countries will be able to call your business without any charge to them. Instead, your company pays for the cost of the call.

In other words, a business can get a toll-free number for a different country (say, the US) and route incoming calls to their main office in another country (say, France).  Callers from within the US can call this ITFN for free, and they won’t know that they are being routed to a representative in France.

If you were to use a France-based phone number to contact US customers, they might be reluctant to answer your call or call you back, fearing long-distance rates. They would also have to deal with complicated long-distance calling codes. Market research shows that these two factors will reduce your customer communications, decrease your leads, and cut your revenue.

This is where ITFNs provide useful and cost-efficient. In this case, you can avoid the problem by purchasing a US toll-free number from a provider like Global Call Forwarding. Your US customers can call you for free, and all calls will be easily redirected to your satellite office, customer service center in the US, or your main office in France.

This is a great way to expand your business throughout the world because it provides an inexpensive and efficient way to increase your communication and marketing. Plus, you make it much easier for clients to contact you and they will appreciate it.

How a Toll-Free Service Can Improve your Metrics

The important thing to remember when you buy international toll-free numbers is to make each one serve its own purpose. In this way, you can track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. For example, let’s say you are advertising your product or service in several places simultaneously. These are:

  • Your website
  • Television
  • Newspaper
  • Email newsletter
  • Social media
  • Offline marketing platforms

You could use a different toll-free number for each of these mediums. That way, you would be able to track each lead to its original source. Armed with this information, you can adjust your marketing strategies to be more effective where necessary. You will also need to find out any restrictions before you purchase a new number, such as whether the phone number will work with mobile phones or not.

Choosing a Toll-Free Number for Your Company

Effective business and sales communication lead to increased customer satisfaction, which results in more sales. While social media, email, and live chat are important elements of a business’ identity, many clients and customers still prefer direct telephone contact. Based on your business and your goals, it is imperative to choose the right business toll-free number. To learn more or get your own 800 phone number, call us at 1 (888) 908 6171 today!

The History of Mobile Phones

Mobile phone technology has progressed significantly since ‘cell phones’ were first invented. The first modern portable handset was invented by Dr. Martin Cooper in 1973. Motorola sought to build a personal telephone that belonged to an individual rather than a home or a desk.

1973 – 1980s – 1G

Dr. Cooper was an engineer and general manager at Motorola at the time he invented the cell phone. The prototype developed by Dr. Cooper weighed almost two and a half pounds and was larger than today’s office phones. In 1973, he placed the first call from a portable phone – to a rival engineer at Bell Labs.

After Dr. Cooper’s revolutionary creation, it took nearly ten years for mobile phones to reach the market. Motorola rolled out the first commercial mobile phone in 1983, the DynaTAC 8000X, costing $3,995. The cost of Motorola’s first phone today would be $9600 after accounting for inflation! Mobile phone technology was relatively underdeveloped at the time, operating on an analogue cellular network.

1990s – Digital Cellular

Consistent with the rapid technological advancements of the 1990s, cellular phone technology improved exponentially. In the 1990s, a 2nd generation of mobile phone systems was created. Two systems vied for global supremacy: the U.S. developed CDMA standard and the European developed GSM standard.

Along with the new ways of transmitting information, cellular phone technology was advancing. Smaller batteries and improved energy-efficiency devices enabled companies to create smaller cell phones. While the brick-sized Motorola DynaTAC 8000 weighed 28 ounces, newer phones in the 90s weighed between 3.5 and 7 ounces.

The 2nd generation of phone systems introduced text messaging and the ability to access web content from mobile phones. Custom ringtones were incredibly popular among mobile phone users. Of course, SMS/text messaging has been a huge success. ‘Texting’ is the preferred medium for communications among millennials. In addition, four out of five people use texting for business communications.

Nokia was a leader in the mobile phone industry during the 1990s. Nokia launched an early mobile phone with vibrations, and later introduced ‘Snake’ to cell phone users.

The first full internet service on a cell phone was introduced in 1999. However, this internet access was different from accessing the mobile internet.

2000s – 3G/4G

During the 1990s, cell phone use started to become commonplace and the demand for cellular data increased. More people sought access to the internet from their mobile phones and people sought faster data speeds.

Engineers in the industry began developing ‘Mobile Broadband’ to satisfy mobile phone users. 2G technology utilized circuit switching for data transmission. The major change from 2G to 3G was the use of packet switching to replace circuit switching. It wasn’t until 3G technologies that mobile phone users could access the mobile internet.

In 2007, Apple rolled out the first iPhone in the United States. The iPhone was a revolutionary device with full internet access, a touch screen and all the functions of a traditional camera phone and mp3 player. Apple has continued to make improvements to the iPhone and there are now more than 100 million iPhone in the United States.

By 2009, engineers began developing a 4th generation of technology to accommodate bandwidth consuming applications like streaming media. The 4th generation is called Native IP Networks.

Cell Phones Today

Like most electronics, improvements in mobile phone technology came about exponentially. Today’s cell phones have capabilities that are likely beyond the imagination of Dr. Martin Cooper. There are almost as many cell-phone subscriptions as there are people on this earth. The advancement of mobile phone technology is bound to continue in future years. What innovations would you most like to see in coming years?

The Invention of the Telephone

Earlier today, Apple unveiled two new iPhones: the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 plus. The tech giant announced newer models in its immensely popular line of smartphones. Smart phones today come with advanced mobile operating systems, which combine features of a mobile telephone with features of a personal computer.

Mobile telephones like the iPhone are currently some of the most widely used communications devices in the world. In the United States, nearly everyone has a cell phone – including your kids! China has an astronomical 1,100,000,000 cell phones in use.

Although in existence for more than 100 years, telephone usage and demand has been steadily increasing. There is tremendous use for telephones in business communication in addition to the use of personal mobile phones. For such a widely used device, the history of the telephone is rarely discussed.

The History of the Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell’s greatest success was accomplished on March 10, 1876, when he completed a monumentally successful experiment with the telephone. According to his journal entry dated 10 March 1876, Bell spoke these famous words, “Mr. Watson – come here – I want to see you.” This marked the first time he was able to “talk with electricity.”

However, the story behind the invention of the telephone has been surrounded by controversy. Two inventors in the 1870s both independently designed devices that could transmit speech electronically. Within hours of each other, Elisha Grey and Alexander Graham Bell rushed their designs to the patent office.

According to official records, Bell was the first to register his patent by a matter of hours. The two entered a notorious battle over the years regarding the true inventor of the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell emerged as the winner of the legal battle, and thus was declared the official inventor of the telephone.

Telegraphs as a way of communicating

Telegrams were the major form of communication before telephones were invented. For those unfamiliar with telegraphy – a telegram is a message sent by an electrical telegraph operator using Morse code. Users were limited to receiving and sending one message at a time. Telegrams were used to transmit and receive messages over long distances.

Imagine for a second how difficult it was to communicate with somebody using telegraphy. The process required electric telegraph operators, Morse code and wires! Cell phones are so easy to use.

The wire-based telegraph system was highly successful for more than 30 years. The Western Union Telegraph Company bought out smaller companies during the 1800s and rapidly extended its lines to become the dominant player in the early telecommunications industry. In fact, Western Union even built the first transcontinental telegraph line. However, two inventors in the 1870’s would drastically change telecommunications for a long time.

Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh Scotland. Bell’s parents and grandparents were instructors in elocution and the correction of speech. Bell dropped out of high school and university, and his early career involved teaching deaf people. He taught at the Clarke School for the Deaf and at the American School for the Deaf.

While pursuing a teaching career, Bell began researching telecommunications on the side. Bell imagined potential innovations to the telegraph system.

Multiple message telegraphs

Alexander Graham Bell imagined sending multiple messages over the same wire simultaneously. He envisioned a multiple message telegraph that would allow users to send and receive several messages at the same time, rather than a single message.

In 1974, Bell received funding from father-in-law/Boston attorney Gardiner Greene Hubbard to create the “future of telecommunications” – the multiple message telegraph.

Bell worked on the multiple message telegraph and eventually enlisted the services of Thomas Watson, a young electrician. However, the pair began exploring a new idea – developing a device that would transmit speech electronically.

The harmonic telegraph

The two discovered that different tones would vary the strength of an electric current in a wire. Bell and Watson realized they only needed to build two devices for this to work. First, a working transmitter that is able to vary electric currents. Second, a receiver that would reproduce these varied currents.

On June 2, 1875, Alexander Graham Bell was first able to hear sound – a twanging clock spring – over a wire using his “harmonic telegraph” device. Less than one year later, the telephone was born, marking the death of the multiple telegraph idea.

Being able to “talk with electricity” presented vast opportunities to communicate with others.

The future of the telephone

Apple’s announcements today did more than unveil the newest iPhone 7. The announcements showed how far telephones have come. Alexander Graham Bell would probably not recognize his “harmonic telegraphs” today.

Still, the innovations to telephones have been so useful to hundreds of millions of people. Telephones and softphones are still widely used in business today and new features exist that enable landlines to do so much more than transmit voices. In addition, many companies are opting for alternatives to PSTN. Major innovations have altered the field of telecommunications. What’s next?