Bell telephone prototype

by Kate C
Publish date
10 March 2012
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“Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you."

This remarkably ordinary sentence, spoken by Alexander Graham Bell 136 years ago on 10 March 1876, comprises the first clear bi-directional transmission of speech via telephone. One of Bell's original experimental phones is set to go on display at Scienceworks in the upcoming Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention exhibition.

  Bell Double-Pole Magneto transmitter and receiver Bell Double-Pole Magneto receiver (ST 035633).
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

This Bell Double-Pole Magneto receiver is not the one Bell used when uttering that famous first sentence but it is very similar. It too was made in 1876 prior to Bell's first public demonstration of the telephone at Philadelphia's Centennial Exhibition in July of that year. It was used with the transmitter also in the museum's collection.

"These highly significant objects were originally brought to Melbourne by Bell's uncle, Edward Symonds, who visited his nephew's Boston laboratory in August 1876. Bell remained in contact with his uncle afterwards, and Symonds went on to assist in administering Bell's Australian patents," said curator David Demant. The transmitter, receiver and other Bell material were eventually donated to Museum Victoria in 1974 by Symonds' descendants.

"It is nowadays very hard to imagine life before the telephone, so deep has been its social and technological influence," said David.

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.