The Cultural Context and Evolution of the Telephone

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The Cultural Context and Evolution of the Telephone It is common knowledge that the telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 and that Bell was awarded the patent after a race (and legal battle) with Elisha Gray of the Western Electric Telegraph Company; what is less well-known is the cultural context that enabled the invention or the effect that the telephone eventually had on modern life. This paper places the invention of the telephone into context and explores the relationship between the phone, the humanities, and later forms of technology. Alexander Graham Bell worked at a school for deaf children out of Boston, MA; his invention of the telephone was funded by two parents of his students. In contrast, Bell's main adversary, Elisha Gray, was the founder of Western Electric, which was a subsidiary of the Western Union telegraph company. The race between the two inventors represents a dichotomy between the provincial Bell and the big business-minded Gray. Indeed, the Western Union telegraph company was hugely influential in the western expansion of the previous decades; the telegraph enabled instantaneous long-distance communication in a way that would be expanded upon by the telephone. Although it is commonly believed that Gray filed for the patent just before Bell did, bureaucratic confusion resulted in Gray being misinformed that his patent has been filed after Bell; this lead to Gray dropping his pursuit of the invention and Bell was awarded the

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