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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.

Proposed Documentary: “Here, My Dear”

January 6, 2012 1 comment

Documentary Project Proposal

Here, My Dear

Written, produced and directed by Michael Ashton

SYNOPSIS

In the United States, marriage and divorce are increasingly becoming common experiences. The former has carried a perceived of being one of the most positive aspects in life, whereas the latter is perceived to have a negative connotation.  Here, My Dear is a feature documentary thoroughly following the details of being in a marriage, the emotional journey of dissolving one and ultimately how both aspects impact children in various ways.

People marry for their own reasons ranging from legal and social to economic and religious reasons, as well as genuine love. In any case, marriage is considered to a milestone event in a spouse’s life that requires a number of adjustments. A couple beginning a union opens a chapter of togetherness into forever. Conversely, a spouse entering a divorce face a range of emotions such as (but not limited to) regret and stress to excitement and optimism. Although a divorce is irrefutably difficult for all, it is the children of the family who suffer the most. The idea that a couple can “stay together for the children’s sake” never seems to work out, often worsening the underlying issues, exacerbating tension and causing more harm than good to children who need the stability of both parents. Here, My Dear journeys to document all of these aspects and to find answers to the questions that people have about the struggles of family life.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND BACKGROUND

In the book The History of Human Marriage (1921), Edvard Westermark defines marriage as “a more or less durable connection between a male and female lasting beyond the mere act of propagation till after the birth of the offspring.” Marriages are typically recognized by the state, a religious power, or both. It is often seen as a contract or institution, irrespective of any religious affiliation but in accordance with marriage laws of the state.

As of late, almost one out of two marriages will end in divorce, many of which include one or more children. When children are involved, the immediate thought is how they will cope through this difficult period. Though the couple may be preoccupied with their quest to dissolve their union, the children are often invariably confused by how the security of their family life is now shaken. They may start to feel shame, assuming the fault that they somehow have caused their parent’s marriage (and their own stability) to crumble.

STYLE AND STRUCTURE

Here, My Dear is an observational documentary following lives in four separate arcs. It seeks to question why people get married, follow the dynamic of those that have stayed married, the emotions that come after a divorce and how children play an important factor.

Here, My Dear was named after legendary soul singer’s 1978 album of the same name, which documented his feelings about his crumbling marriage and subsequent divorce. Each story relates to a track from that album.

CHARACTERS

1. Oliver Sanchez

Anger destroys your soul. Rage, there’s no room for rage in there. Line up some place to go to be mad. It’s a sin to treat your body bad. (“Anger” by Marvin Gaye)

Oliver is an child from Lynbrook, New York. At age 11, he currently attends St. Agnes Elementary School in Rockville Centre, New York. He enjoys dance, television, science and math. Born to parents who divorced after less than five years of marriage (when Oliver was only four years old). He has a close relationship with his mother, while his relationship with his father has grown to be strained over the course of his childhood. His mother believes that his behavioral problems in school stems from being a product of divorced parents. Both parents argue often about finances for Oliver.

Interview Questions:

    1. Why do you think couples divorce?
    2. How many of your classmates have parents that are separated/divorced?
    3. Do you think your parents are better off being divorced or do you wish they were still married? Do you think they can resolve their differences?
    4. What do you think your parents think of each other now?
    5. Do your parents ask you how you feel about being an only child? Do they ask you about your feelings?
    6. How do you feel about your parents?
2. Michelle & Roger Benshoff
…cause when you look at me, I get weak in my knees. My heart won’t let me be. Won’t you help me please? I really love you. Darling, you’re so wonderful. You are so divine. You’re my heavenly dream. (“Time to Get It Together” by Marvin Gaye)
Michelle is a 5thgrade teacher from Brooklyn, New York. Roger is a train conductor for New York City transit. They have been happily married to each other for 25 years. Michelle is currently pursuing her second degree in education, while Roger is looking to start a small family business. The Benshoffs describe their marriage as “very happy and enduring” with “very, very few arguments”. She and her husband are committed to each other and to providing an excellent life for their two daughters (ages 29 and 24).
Interview Questions:
    1. What do you think has been the key to keeping such an enduring marriage?
    2. How many couples do you know that have been together as long as you have?
    3. How often do you have disagreements? How often do you make up?
    4. Can you reveal your weaknesses and doubts to your partner without fear of embarrassment, criticism or judgment?
    5. When you’re upset or angry about something your partner does/doesn’t do, do you find it easy to tell her/him about it?

3. Marcus & Nicole Baptist

Hey Anna, here’s your song. The one that I promised you all along. I knew all the time that I’d find the rhyme. Never have a fear, here it is, my dear. (“Anna’s Song” by Marvin Gaye.)

Nicole is a nurse and Marcus is an electrician engineer for New York University. The couple has been married for almost 25 years and has had two kids. They describe their marriage as “generally positive” while admitting that most of their hardships and arguing are centered on finances as Marcus feels they “are not completely secure enough to spend” the way they’d like to.

Interview Questions:

    1. How much will you spend on gifts for family, friends and each other?
    2. What hobbies or recreational pursuits do you pursue individually? Together? How often do you pursue them?
    3. How important is money to you both?
    4. Who will pay the bills and keep the checkbook? What are your reservations about the use of credit cards? When it comes to finances, do you usually agree on what to spend your money on?
    5. How often have you felt a lull in your marriage? Have you ever felt that divorce was eminent?
    6. Describe what keeps your marriage strong.

4. Jennifer Allen

(“You know, when you say your marriage vows, they’re supposed to be for real. I mean…if you think back about what you really said, you know, about, honor and loving and obeying till death do us part and all. But it shouldn’t be that way, it should…it it shouldn’t be lies because it turns out to be lies. If you don’t honor what you said, you lie to God. The words should be changed.” -“When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You?” by Marvin Gaye.)

Jennifer is a medical nurse who recently graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University. At 57, she filed for divorced from her husband of 22 years due to increased arguments and growing dissatisfaction. Early in the marriage, her husband fathered another child during an affair. After reconciliation and jointly putting three children through college over the years, a bitter divorce was put into motion that deeply affected her.

Interview Questions:

    1. When was the moment that you knew your marriage was over? Do you think there was anything else that could have saved it?
    2. What are your greatest memories? Regrets?
    3. How do you feel about your ex-spouse now? Are both of you on speaking terms?
    4. Though the youngest of your three children is 22 years old, how do you think the dissolution of your marriage has affected them?
    5. How do you feel about marriage now? Do you see it in your future? Why or why not?

RELATED WORK

The film “One Divided by Two: Kids and Divorce” is another film that describes the conflicted feelings that children aged 8 to 18 feel when their parents dissolve their marriage. It carries an original approach with the inclusion of animation to tell parts of the stories. It is an excellent discussion starter to help parents gain a bit of insight as to what their children are experiencing emotionally.

Here, My Dear will have a similar approach, but it will also include those who are married, those who struggle with marriage and those who have recently divorced.  The film seeks to cover the emotional journey that they all go on.