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In the golden summer before World War I the inventions and discoveries of the late 19th century transformed North American life Automobiles shortened or at least seemed to the miles airplanes fulfilled humanitys dream of mechanized flight Electric light was now commonplace and the telephone was rapidly building communication networks across the North American continent But the two inventions that helped shape America as we know it are the telephone and the television The inhabitants of the earth have long communicated at a distance eg shouting from one hilltop or tower to another A combination of two Greek words tele meaning far off and phone meaning voice or sound became the term for far-speaking Distance communication by means other than voice had early associations with music dating to the early 1800s Charles Wheatstone co-inventor of the telegraph applied the term telephonic to describe his invention an enchanted lyre which transmitted music from one room to another Speaking tubes were used on steamships and trains and in office walls and households to carry on conversations between parties in distant rooms Victorian children played with string telephones small tin cylinders with paper drumheads attached by a stringIt was only to be a matter of time before the application of electricity to the concept of the string telephone would be realized Philipp Reis began his research in 1860 using the hollowed-out bung of a beer barrel a sausage skin a violin and a knitting-needle and called his invention a telephon Young 1991 p 5 Reis came close to inventing the electric telephone missing only by a turn of a screw Brooks 1976 p 36 However the person most closely associated with the true invention of the electric telephone remains Alexander Graham Bell The son of Alexander Melville Bell Alexander Graham Bell creator of a code called Visible Speech which was a widely-used system to teach pronunciation primarily to deaf persons focused his efforts on matters of speech
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