Telephone Tales — Mr. Watson, Come Here, I Want You!

Lost and Found Sound -- Looking at the First Phone Call

Thomas Edison holding a telescribe, an early phone-recording device. The photo is from 1914.

A rare photograph of Thomas Edison on the telephone. He is pictured here with his Telescribe, an early phone-recording device. August 31, 1914 Text and Photo Courtesy the Edison National Historic Site hide caption

itoggle caption Text and Photo Courtesy the Edison National Historic Site

Mr. Watson, Come Here, I Want You!


What was the first telephone call ever like? We received word of a marvelously rare recording from our Quest for Sound phone line and decided to present it on Lost and Found Sound.

"Mr. Watson, Come Here, I Want You!" was produced by Jay Allison. "You Say Hello, I Say Ahoy" was produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson) with Art Silverman.

Here's how curator Jay Allison, describes its acquisition: "Yesterday, the voice of Dr. Bill Winternitz's grandfather, originally recorded in a talking motion picture soundtrack, was transferred to us via ISDN phone line from radio station WUAL in Tuscaloosa Alabama, and has just been cloned to the hard drive of the computer workstation in front of me. From here I will make a digital tape copy to be incorporated into All Things Considered, uplinked to a satellite, and downlinked by the public radio station to which you will be tuned waiting to hear Thomas A. Watson tell about the events leading up to the 10th of March 1876, when he received from Alexander Graham Bell the first telephone call, ever."

You Say Hello, I Say Ahoy

The greeting hello is a fairly recent invention. Professor Allen Koenigsberg author of The Patent History of the Phonograph believes the word wasn't in use much before Thomas Edison introduced it as a way to let a caller know you had picked up a ringing phone. Edison preferred "Hello" over Alexander Graham Bell's "AHOY!" as a greeting. In either case, English may be the only language where the telephone greeting has become proper to use in a face-to-face greeting.

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