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The History of the Telephone

Communicating information has always been an extremely important factor for people to maintain relationships. Since the inception of the telephone, communication has significantly improved, providing a tool for relationships of all types to be sustained at any distance. This tool provided a sweeping way for individuals to speak to one another, person to person, in real time. The power of the telephone was immediate across the country. Because of this important step in technology, a major change was signaled in American society and around the world.

The telephone is a historic device that transmits and receives sound, usually that of a human’s voice. The invention of the telephone was to serve as a bridge between short to long distances, providing a convenient means to verbally communicate to one another. This invention has changed many facets of human life at that point, as mail was the standard mode of communication before the telephone came into the fore. Because phone calls were comparatively instant and cheaper, people were able to speak to each other within seconds. With its impact, it made businesses run tighter and more efficiently, saving money that would have otherwise been spent on traveling to great distances, making transactions occur more quickly.

As Alexander Graham Bell began designing and developing the telephone, one of his main goals was to allow everyone, including the poor to use the telephone. Bell carried an extensive knowledge of the nature of sound as well as an understanding and appreciation of music. It was this unique combination that enabled him to raise the possibility of transmitting multiple messages over the same wire at the same time. The entire focus of his first creation was to produce an alternative that would eventually replace the telegraph. Although the telegraph was a highly successful system, it was also deeply limited to being able to receive and send one message at a time.

As Bell began experimenting with electrical signals, the telegraph had already been an established means of communication for some 30 years. Initially, when the telephone was introduced it was met with some resistance and a few technical problems. Although the telephone would later become a necessity of daily life, it was not as warmly received by the public. People believed it was nothing more than a toy. The company that became AT&T (shortened to American Telephone and Telegraph Company) began in 1875, in an arrangement among inventor Alexander Graham Bell and the two men, Gardiner Hubbard and Thomas Sanders, who agreed to finance his work. There had been manyalterations in the structure and design of the telephone since the time it was first made. Bell’s interest in electricity continued and he attempted to send several telegraph messages over a single wire at one time. Missing the time and proper skill to make the equipment for these experiments, he solicited the help of Thomas A. Watson from a nearby electrical shop. The two became fast friends and worked together on the tiresome experimentation to yield sounds over what was dubbed the “harmonic telegraph.” On June 2, 1875, while Bell was at one end of the line and Watson worked on the reeds of the telegraph in another room that he heard the sound of a plucked reed coming to him over the wire. Bell announced his findings, first in a series of lectures to Boston scientists and later at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. He later received the patents in 1876 and 1877. Building out from New York, AT&T reached its initial goal of Chicago in 1892, and then San Francisco in 1915. On December 30, 1899, AT&T acquired the assets of American Bell, and became the parent company of the Bell System. Because the signals would tend to weaken as they traveled down telephone wires, producing a nationwide network required a wide range of inventions. Loading coils, which were invented independently at AT&T and elsewhere allowed the network to be built out to Denver. The first practical electrical amplifiers, devised at AT&T in 1913 made transcontinental telephony possible.

After Bell’s patents expired in 1893, independent telephone companies spread across the county. The Wisconsin Telephone Company and its parent Bell fiercely competed with the smaller companies, who fought among themselves as well. Smaller companies built phones and installed systems in different parts of the companies. A growing pain during this time was the fact that subscribers to the service of one particular company could not talk to those of another, unless they wanted another line with that other company. Independent subscribers could not make long-distance calls from their telephones, as Bell owned all the toll lines. Bell offices could provide this service, albeit for an additional charge. Eventually, many of the smaller companies sold out to the Wisconsin Telephone Company, which soon dominated in the larger towns and cities. Smaller companies would continue to provide service to rural areas and small towns. By 1900 there were nearly 600,000 phones in Bell’s telephone system. Five years later, that number multiplied, reaching 2.2 million phones. By 1910, there were nearly 5.8 million phones active in Bell’s telephone system. In 1915, the transcontinental telephone line began operating.

By the end of 1907, AT&T had control on phone and telegraph service, thanks to its lucrative purchase of Western Union. Its president, Theodore Vail, urged at the time that a monopoly could most efficiently operate the nation’s far-flung communications network. At the urging of the public and AT&T competitors, the government began to investigate the company for anti-trust violations, thus forcing the 1913 Kingsbury Commitment, an agreement between AT&T vice president Nathan Kingsbury and the office of the U.S. Attorney General. Under this commitment, AT&T agreed to divest itself of Western Union and provide long-distance services to independent phone exchanges. During World War I, the government nationalized telephone and telegraph lines in the United States from June 1918 to July 1919, when, after a joint resolution of Congress, President Wilson issued an order putting them under the direction of the U.S. Post Office. A year later, the systems were returned to private ownership, AT&T resumed its monopolistic hold, and by 1934 the government again acted, this time agreeing to allow it to operate as a “regulated monopoly” under the jurisdiction of the FCC.

Throughout the years, telephones had become a staple in American life, with as many as 30 million being used in homes in the United States in 1948. Call volume was measured to have augmented during the 1940s, citing a dramatic increase after the Pearl Harbor attack in December of 1941. Though Bell had originally designed the telephone’s only function to serve voice communications, technology has developed over time, producing newer capabilities for people to communicate. Debuting in the 1970s, pay telephone booths (which could arguably be considered the first of mobile phones) began appearing in parts of the United States and Canada.

In the 1980s when the first mobile phones were introduced, some weighed up to 10 pounds and were priced expensively until the slimmed down versions debuted into the market. Motorola introduced the 16-ounce “DynaTAC” phone into commercial service in 1983, with each phone costing the consumer $3,500. It took seven additional years before there were a million subscribers in the United States.Up until the release of the first truly portable phone in 1989, most cellular phones were installed as car phones due to the inability to fit them into a jacket pocket.

As technology continues to change and take its users into different directions, the telephone has remained an indispensable tool in the United States and around the world. By transforming communication technology, interpersonal communications have been expanded at a level that Alexander Graham Bell probably wouldn’t have imagined.

Mitt Romney: Profile of a Businessman

May 11, 2012 1 comment

Mitt Romney is a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He is a businessman as well as a former governor of Massachusetts. His accomplishments include signing a statewide health reform program into law which gave most residents access to health insurance. As a frontrunner for the 2012 nomination as president, he was among nearly a dozen Republicans who sought the party’s nomination to run against Democratic President Barack Obama, who was seen as vulnerable amid relatively high unemployment and the lingering effects of a recession from the Bush administration. But Romney’s campaign has received a significant level of criticism from people who feel that the background in business that he proudly touts on the trail could have a particularly negative effect on his presidential aspirations.

According to his biography published on Biography.com, Mitt Romney was born Willard Mitt Romney on March 12th 1947 and raised in the affluent town of Bloomfield Hills Michigan. He is the son of George Romney, a contender to be the Republican candidate for presidency who was defeated by Richard Nixon in 1968.

Though Romney grew up with wealth and privilege as the son of a Michigan governor, he has tried to downplay his early advantages and said in a speech that he took “an entry-level job” after graduating from Harvard law and business schools with a joint J.D. /M.B.A. degree in 1975. Mitt Romney began his career in business, working at Boston Consulting Group, which was one of the world’s top-three management consultancies. After two years, he entered a management consulting position to Bain & Company, hired personally by the head of the company, Bill Bain. Bain would later say of the thirty-year-old Romney in a New York Times article that Romney “had the appearance and confidence of a guy who was maybe ten years older.”

With Bain & Company, Romney learned the “Bain way”, which consisted of immersing the firm in each client’s business. In 1983, Bill Bain offered Romney the chance to head a new venture that would invest in companies and apply Bain’s management techniques to improve operations. In the face of doubt from potential investors, Romney and his partners spent a year raising the $37 million in funds needed to start the new operation, which had fewer than ten employees. Romney worked there turning around struggling businesses until 1984, when he co-founded Bain Capital, which became Bain’s private-­equity spin-off. When Bain ran into trouble in 1990, it asked Romney to become the CEO and restore the firm to financial health for the next two years. He continued at Bain Capital until he left to pursue a career in public service, eventually running the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to an article by Politicol News published in February 2012, Mitt Romney’s position as the President and CEO of the Winter Olympic Games is indicative of his lack of direction when it comes to budgeting and could be symptomatic of how he would act in office. Romney cites his running the Olympics as a success story when it was the federal government that came to the rescue with taxpayer dollars by injecting $600 million into the Olympic purse strings. “I led an Olympics out of the shadows of scandal,” he states in a Washington speech but he does not acknowledge the fact that the government bailed him out. Romney actually persuaded his friends in congress to give more money to cover the costs of the Olympics in his self-proclaimed turnaround of the endeavor.

Nonetheless, Romney parlayed his experience with the Olympics and translated it into politics when he was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2003. During Romney’s term as governor, he oversaw the reduction of a $3 billion deficit. Romney also signed into law a health care reform program to provide nearly universal health care for Massachusetts residents.

Shortly after failing to get the Republican nomination for the 2008 presidential election, Romney began a devising a strategy for the 2012 presidential campaign. He began building up a political infrastructure for what would become a $1 billion campaign. He formally announced his intention to run for presidency on June 2, 2011, while continuing to give speeches and raise campaign funds on behalf of fellow Republicans. His campaign slogan, “Believe in America”, was criticized heavily for being the same as one John Kerry used when he ran as the Democrats candidate, a Democrat who ran for president in 2004.

As explained in a piece in The Atlantic Magazine from December 2011, Mitt Romney cites his long-term relationship with the private sector as the reason why he understands “how jobs come to America and why they go. I’ve competed with companies around the world. I’ve learned something about how it is that economies grow. It’s not just simple—wave a wand and everything gets better.”

As job creation and the flailing economy have become a hot issue for candidates in the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney is placing hopes on his background as a successful businessman to position him as the most qualified contender to jump-start the nation’s economy.  His frequent appearances before conservative groups and in the news media have given Romney multiple opportunities to seek conservative support after his unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination in 2008. During that bid, some conservatives were skeptical of his convictions. Romney’s leadership of Bain Capital was supposed to be the basis of his candidacy, something that would present him as an attractive alternative to a novice president struggling to right the economy. Instead, it has become a liability. It was inevitable that Mitt Romney’s involvement with Bain Capital as well as the staggering wealth he amassed with them would become a political issue at some point in 2012.

From the early stages of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, he has publicly criticized President Barack Obama’s record on job creation. He has taken many opportunities to paint the picture that Obama’s administration have made it more difficult for small businesses in this country, vowing extreme changes should he be elected in November 2012. “Small business has really felt like it’s been under attack over the past several years,” Romney told a crowd of local fishermen and residents on a pier in Portsmouth, New Hampshire during a televised speech. “If I become president of the United States, I am going to be a pro small business president and fight for the rights of small business people.” Acknowledging the recession contributed to a drop in small business startups, Romney placed a large portion of blame on President Obama’s policies, including an increase in regulations put in place by Washington. “Regulators are just multiplying like proverbial rabbits and making it harder and harder for enterprises to grow and to understand what their future might be,” Romney said.

Although his supporters believe his business background make him a more viable candidate, his detractors are highly skeptical of his track record and how it could translate into the future as the president of the country.  According to the Service Employees International Union, Mitt Romney:

  • Favors big corporations and businesses to receive higher tax breaks
  • Was responsible for keeping one of the worst job growth rates as the governor of Massachusetts while the national economy was thriving, ranking 47th out of all 50 states.
  • Accumulated vast sums of money made a fortune by acquiring companies and laying off thousands of workers.
  • Believes that workers should pay for their own unemployment benefits through individual savings accounts. Romney even said it’s an “indisputable fact” that extending jobless benefits only discourages people from finding employment
  • Proposes scaling back unemployment insurance costs by paying benefits for fewer weeks; similar to plans enacted by Tea Party governors such as Rich Scott (Florida) and Scott Walker (Wisconsin).
  • Vetoed $11 million in job training funds for employees

According to the article “Obama Seeks To Define Mitt Romney As Insensitive, Out Of Touch” by Jeff Mason published by The Huffington Post in April 2012, Obama’s campaign has worked steadily to construct an image of an insensitive and patrician Romney even before he wins the Republican nomination, hoping to create a caricature that sticks with voters once the election officially becomes a two-man race.  As pointed out by The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Romney’s net worth is up to a quarter million dollars would end up being one of the richest presidents elected into office. Romney has spent much of his campaign defending his personal wealth in the face of mounting criticism from the president and his re-election campaign as they work to paint the former businessman as out of touch with most Americans. “If we become one of those societies that attacks success, one outcome is certain – there will be a lot less success,” Romney said during a speech at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. “You’re going to hear a deafening cacophony of charges and counter-charges and my prediction is that by Nov. 6 most of you are going to be afraid to turn on your TV.”

As pointed out by Mark Maremont in “Romney at Bain: Big Gains, Some Busts”, an article published by the Wall Street Journal in January 2012 , the piece discusses the progress Mitt Romney has made on the trail and was quick to highlight how his rivals have sought to turn his Bain tenure against him. Rick Santorum, one of Romney’s early opponents, who dropped out of the race, was critical of his background. “We need someone who can talk and relate to folks battling in this economy, not someone talking about being a CEO of a company and making jokes about firing people,” Santorum said. Rick Perry ran an ad saying Mr. Romney “made millions buying companies and laying off workers.” Newt Gingrich has said Mr. Romney should “give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain.”

Though Mitt Romney has beaten many of his fellow running mates and is the presumptive nominee, his campaign will have to work hard at making sure his business background connects to voters in a positive way. Voters will have to truly believe that Romney has not exaggerated his record and that he is not a wealthy elitist.