History: The First Telephones

The first telephones had
a crank on the side and
a very basic ear and
speaking piece. Only
one call was allowed at
a time, so patience was

Today we have so many conveniences to keep us connected with family and friends. Cell phones, face-time, and social media, just to name a few. Have you ever thought of what life was like before these modern conveniences? I recently read a fun book of memories with a story by Earl B. Cragun and he explained what it was like having a telephone for the first time.

“The first crude-looking telephones were something to talk about and, if working properly, something to talk into. Rhees, Hickenlooper, Budge and Cragun each had a number like 20M, 20J and 20R. The first phone came to our town May 3, 1905. Our phone number was 20M, Reuben T. Rhees’ phone was 20R, Thomas Budge’s phone number was 20J. To call Ogden you would crank up the bell, talk to the operator known as “Central” in North Ogden and she would, if successful, get you to your party. “Central” was the expert reporter also of town news. Every one of the few telephones in the town were connected to the same single line. Only one call could be made at any given time. When others planned to use their phone, they had to wait their turn. Listening in was always expected but would reduce the audibility. It then would be time to say to the snoopers: get off the line. Results were usually immediate. She knew more about things, especially the latest gossip, than even the friendly town barber knew.”

It is wild to think of that time. Only one call at a time! I imagine there are many thousands of texts alone being sent every minute in the northern Ogden area. Of course, there are many more people here now but it would be a bit hard to wait for a clear line before you could send your next text. My kids have a meltdown when we “accidentally” unplug the Wi-Fi which sends and receives many millions of kilobytes every day.

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