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The Telephones Portal
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A rotary dial telephone, c. 1940s
A rotary dial telephone, c. 1940s

A telephone is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far apart to be heard directly. A telephone converts sound, typically and most efficiently the human voice, into electronic signals that are transmitted via cables and other communication channels to another telephone which reproduces the sound to the receiving user. The term is derived from Greek: τῆλε (tēle, far) and φωνή (phōnē, voice), together meaning distant voice. A common short form of the term is phone, which came into use almost immediately after the first patent was issued.

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was the first to be granted a United States patent for a device that produced clearly intelligible replication of the human voice at a second device. This instrument was further developed by many others, and became rapidly indispensable in business, government, and in households. (Full article...)

A mobile phone, cellular phone, cell phone, cellphone, handphone, hand phone or pocket phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell, or just phone, is a portable telephone that can make and receive calls over a radio frequency link while the user is moving within a telephone service area. The radio frequency link establishes a connection to the switching systems of a mobile phone operator, which provides access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Modern mobile telephone services use a cellular network architecture and, therefore, mobile telephones are called cellular telephones or cell phones in North America. In addition to telephony, digital mobile phones (2G) support a variety of other services, such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications (infrared, Bluetooth), business applications, video games and digital photography. Mobile phones offering only those capabilities are known as feature phones; mobile phones which offer greatly advanced computing capabilities are referred to as smartphones. (Full article...)

A smartphone is a portable device that combines mobile telephone and computing functions into one unit. They are distinguished from feature phones by their stronger hardware capabilities and extensive mobile operating systems, which facilitate wider software, internet (including web browsing over mobile broadband), and multimedia functionality (including music, video, cameras, and gaming), alongside core phone functions such as voice calls and text messaging. Smartphones typically contain a number of metal–oxide–semiconductor (MOS) integrated circuit (IC) chips, include various sensors that can be leveraged by pre-included and third-party software (such as a magnetometer, proximity sensors, barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer and more), and support wireless communications protocols (such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or satellite navigation). (Full article...)

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Bell System hires 1969 logo blue.svg

The Bell System was a system of telecommunication companies, led by the Bell Telephone Company and later by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), that dominated the telephone services industry in North America for over one hundred years from its creation in 1877 until its antitrust breakup in 1983. The system of companies was often colloquially called Ma Bell (as in "Mother Bell"), as it held a vertical monopoly over telecommunication products and services in most areas of the United States and Canada. At the time of the breakup of the Bell System in the early 1980s, it had assets of $150 billion (equivalent to $390 billion in 2021) and employed over one million people.

Ever since the 1910s, American antitrust regulators had been observing and accusing the Bell System of abusing its monopoly power, and had brought legal action multiple times over the decades, until in 1974 the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice brought a lawsuit against Bell claiming violations of the Sherman Act. In 1982, anticipating that it could not win, AT&T agreed to a Justice Department-mandated consent decree that settled the lawsuit and ordered it to break itself up into seven "Regional Bell Operating Companies" (known as "The Baby Bells"). This ended the existence of the conglomerate in 1984. These Baby Bells became independent companies and several of them are today very large corporations in their own right. (Full article...)
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Two decades of evolution of mobile phones, from a 1992 Motorola 8900X-2 to the 2014 iPhone 6 Plus
Two decades of evolution of mobile phones, from a 1992 Motorola 8900X-2 to the 2014 iPhone 6 Plus

A mobile phone, cellular phone, cell phone, cellphone, handphone, hand phone or pocket phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell, or just phone, is a portable telephone that can make and receive calls over a radio frequency link while the user is moving within a telephone service area. The radio frequency link establishes a connection to the switching systems of a mobile phone operator, which provides access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Modern mobile telephone services use a cellular network architecture and, therefore, mobile telephones are called cellular telephones or cell phones in North America. In addition to telephony, digital mobile phones (2G) support a variety of other services, such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications (infrared, Bluetooth), business applications, video games and digital photography. Mobile phones offering only those capabilities are known as feature phones; mobile phones which offer greatly advanced computing capabilities are referred to as smartphones.

The development of metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) large-scale integration (LSI) technology, information theory and cellular networking led to the development of affordable mobile communications. The first handheld mobile phone was demonstrated by John F. Mitchell and Martin Cooper of Motorola in New York City in 1973, using a handset weighing c. 2 kilograms (4.4 lbs). In 1979, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) launched the world's first cellular network in Japan. In 1983, the DynaTAC 8000x was the first commercially available handheld mobile phone. From 1983 to 2014, worldwide mobile phone subscriptions grew to over seven billion; enough to provide one for every person on Earth. In the first quarter of 2016, the top smartphone developers worldwide were Samsung, Apple and Huawei; smartphone sales represented 78 percent of total mobile phone sales. For feature phones (slang: "dumbphones") , the top-selling brands were Samsung, Nokia and Alcatel. (Full article...)

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DTMF dialing (0:13) audio output of a DTMF signal. Problems playing this file? See media help.

Dual-tone multi-frequency signaling (DTMF) is a telecommunication signaling system using the voice-frequency band over telephone lines between telephone equipment and other communications devices and switching centers. DTMF was first developed in the Bell System in the United States, and became known under the trademark Touch-Tone for use in push-button telephones supplied to telephone customers, starting in 1963. DTMF is standardized as ITU-T Recommendation Q.23. It is also known in the UK as MF4. (Full article...)

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Edison, c. 1922
Edison, c. 1922

Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices in fields such as electric power generation, mass communication, sound recording, and motion pictures. These inventions, which include the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and early versions of the electric light bulb, have had a widespread impact on the modern industrialized world. He was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of organized science and teamwork to the process of invention, working with many researchers and employees. He established the first industrial research laboratory.

Edison was raised in the American Midwest; early in his career, he worked as a telegraph operator, which inspired some of his earliest inventions. In 1876, he established his first laboratory facility in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where many of his early inventions were developed. He later established a botanical laboratory in Fort Myers, Florida, in collaboration with businessmen Henry Ford and Harvey S. Firestone, and a laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, that featured the world's first film studio, the Black Maria. With 1,093 US patents in his name, as well as patents in other countries, Edison is regarded as the most prolific inventor in American history. Edison married twice and fathered six children. He died in 1931 of complications of diabetes. (Full article...)

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Telephones in the news

7 June 2022 – Anglophone Crisis
Five Cameroonian soldiers are killed in an attack by Ambazonian separatists in Kouoptamo district. (Reuters)
7 June 2022 –
The European Commission agrees to make USB Type-C the common charging port for all mobile phones, tablets and cameras in the European Union by autumn 2024. (Reuters)
29 May 2022 – Anglophone Crisis
Twenty-four people are killed and more than 60 injured in an attack by Anglophone rebels in Cameroon. (Barron's)

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