Berliner' patented telephone: Transmitter 4.375" (110 mm) diameter 2.5" (57 mm) depth and Receiver 2.75" (70 mm) diameter 1.5" (38 mm) depth date 1880
(I am indebted to this article for much of the following information).
Until Emile Berliner made his two critical inventions the existing 'telephones' invented by Reis, Meucci, Bell and others were little better than the child's system of two tin cans with a piece of string stretched between them and had a similar range. The sound diminished rapidly in strengh and the distance over which the sound could remain audible was extremely limited. It was not a practical means of communication.
Berliner's experiments resulted in the invention of two mechanisms that made speech transmission over distance practical and therby gave birth to the telephone as we know it.
Berliner invented the TRANSFORMER; it prevented electrical transmissions from fading rapidly, thereby making communication over long distances possible. Berliner's second crucial invention was the CARBON MICROPHONE, an apparatus capable of far more efficiently transforming sound into electrical currents or voltages, and thus of producing a wide range and better quality of sound. The microphone can be considered the most basic invention for electronic communication of all time.
Alexander Graham Bell "The inventor of the telephone" negotiated for the use of Berliner's patents. Berliner became part of the company marketing the now commercially feasible telephone. He was assigned to head research in the company. The device was first advertised and marketed as the "Bell-Berliner Telephone", but Berliner and Bell quickly fell out. Berliner was unable to capitalise on his enormously profitable inventions, the telephone and subsequently the disc playing gramophone, likewise co-opted by Edison.
After many years of litigation against companies associated with Bell and Edison, he won his case in the Supreme Court of the United States as THE INVENTOR OF BOTH THESE INSTRUMENTS. Berliner won a cash settlement of $20,000 and the stamp of recognition by the Supreme Court as the true inventor of these enormously important devices, but Bell and Edison were left with their commercial exploitation. Obviously, Berliner ended up with official recognition but hardly an equitable financial settlement. In addition, the promotion of the telephone thereafter involved a massive publicity campaign by the Bell Telephone Company, in which myths promulgated by the company became rooted in America's text books and consciousness. It is a classic example of the effect of a "spin" put on history by characters such as Bell and Edison.
I believe that the Berliner telephone on offer here may well be the world's oldest and therefor earliest known 'real' telephone - by which I mean a telephone that can transmit speech further than a man can shout. To date I have been unable to locate another example in any collection public or private - though I accept that there are many fine private collections whose contents are unknown to me. I cannot trace any example sold at auction over the years. I have failed to find any contemporary illustration of this telephone either in reference books available to me or on the web. Perhaps over the next few days someone will contact me with evidence of another example or perhaps more? However given that caveat I believe I can state that at the very least this telephone is extremely rare and that its importance in historical terms is difficult to overstate. Whether it is a unique example time will tell.
I find it difficult to put a value on this piece for the reasons mentioned above, but I am open to serious offers.
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