History of the Telephone and Communication with Businesses


The telephone is one invention that changed the world and opened a wide world of communication. Many businesses benefited from the additional communication options that became available after the invention of the telephone. As communication continues to evolve, businesses continue to benefit from the additional communication channels that are open to make completing business transactions and connecting with customers easier. Understanding the history of the telephone in business can give you a greater appreciation for the invention of the telephone and what it means for us today.


The telephone was invented in the 1870s. Alexander Graham Bell was the first person to register the invention of the telephone at the patent office. His competitor Elisha Gray registered a similar patent just a few hours after he did. The telephone came about because they were trying to improve the capabilities of the telegraph. After the telephone was invented, wealthy individuals and large corporations primarily used it as a means of communications between specific locations. This means that the corporation or individual would run the wires themselves between locations. These were called direct lines.

Telephone exchanges were set up to centralize the telephone network within a smaller geographic area. This system allowed other individual lines to be connected with each other through a central station. These were the forerunners of switchboards. An individual would need to manually connect the wires to each other through the switchboard. Most of the early users of phones were businesses. Many phones would go to a doctor’s office, police station or to a bank. Individuals could subscribe to the switchboard for a monthly fee that gave them access to the telephone network.

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Telephones made it easier for businesses to communicate with each other. It cut down on the amount of time it took to send messages to each other. As the telephone network grew, it also expanded the area that a business could reach. Businesses began to use telephones to connect offices with each other and to build a stronger network of customers. The telephone revolutionized the way that people communicated with each other. Many businesses benefited from the advancements in communication.

As telephones have continued to evolve from landlines and switchboards to cell phones and cell towers, the use of telephones has shaped the way that businesses connect to individuals. Telemarketers came about as a way to reach customers in their own homes. These companies could connect customers to learn about marketing needs and to conduct surveys or to sell products directly to customers. It also made it easier to reach a wider available audience and made it easier for potential customers to contact the business to ask questions.


Business communication has further evolved with the use of the Internet as a means of communication. Email made it easier to connect with clients in written format instantly. The further advancement of cell phones with smartphones makes it easy to reach employees and customers wherever they are. The evolution of communication and the increased ease for both individuals and businesses has helped to make a global economy possible. Without the ability to communicate with each other instantly, it would be much more difficult to conduct business with countries on the other side of the world.

Additionally, the telephone has made it possible for businesses to be located anywhere in the world. Employees may work locally or they may telecommute from home. The Internet is another communication tool that has opened the door for communication and changed the way that businesses communicate with each other and their customers. Web conferences allow the same freedom of telephone communication with the additional benefit of being able to see presentations and to meet each other instead of communicating over the phone. In many ways, the Internet is expanding and changing communication as much as the telephone did in the 1800s.

The world of communications will continue to evolve and businesses will need to continue to adapt to the changes. A successful business will be able to adapt to the changes and find ways to use the increased communication to benefit their business. Understanding the history of the telephone and the way that the global business community has evolved with it can help businesses find new ways to adapt to the changes in communication. Whether you use a traditional landline, a VoIP line or a cell phone, you are still benefiting from the innovations of Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray.


Additional Resources

Learn more about how the telephone changed the business world with these links:

The Birth of the Telephone
1870s to 1940s – Telephone
The History of Communicative Technology: The Telephone
A Brief History of the Rural Electricity and Telephone Programs
Alexander Graham Bell – The Telephone
Alexander Graham Bell Patents the Telephone
The Large Box Telephone
Cell Phone Safety Fact Sheet

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