Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Your Own Wireless Telephone (1910)

Are the switchboard girls listening in on your calls? Get the Wireless Telephone! This story ran in the February 20, 1910 Washington Post (Washington, D.C.). The story has a number of typos and grammatical errors so I took some liberties with the transcript, but you can read it unedited above.

The part about calling your husband and telling him to stop at the butcher's shop is amazing. I don't think I'd believe the article was real if I hadn't found it myself.

The wireless telephone makes it easy enough for the timid lover who hasn't the courage to make his avowal to his Valentine face to face.

He could have used the ordinary telephone you say? Ah, there was the dread of the listening giggling telephone girls at the Central switchboard. Crossed wires might cross him in love besides.

He wasn't safe with the old style telephone - for it is old style though still in use. Somebody else might cut in. Somebody else might cut him off and thereby cut him out.

For the wireless telephone is here. That is if it isn't here it's there.

And do you think it is necessary to hitch a wireless telephone to a tall steel tower to get results? Not at all. Mr. Pickerill uses an umbrella. Mr. Pickerill says if you are at all superstitious about raising an umbrella in the house -- for the wireless telephone can be used anywhere within a radius of several hundred miles outdoors or in-you can hitch the telephone to a typewriter or an iron bed or the metal frame of a sewing machine or the coal scuttle or the radiator or the kitchen stove or the gas fixture - he doesn't care - and call up your own true love.

Wives can call husbands at their offices or on the way to Harlem or the suburbs in the car and say, "Do stop at the butcher's on the corner and get some liver and bacon!" It's the girl's day out. And you know how she is! She never orders a thing ahead.

As a matter of fact, the present style telephone is used mostly by loving couples. After a man's married the trouble begins - not on account of needles and pins money so much as because he doesn't telephone that he'll be late at the office or has to sit up with a sick friend.

"When we were keeping company you used to ring me up a dozen times a day simply to ask me if I still loved you!" the wife will cry. "And if Central would say Busy you'd get so jealous and accuse me of having other fellows call me up. And if Central would say Nobody answers you'd write complaints to the main office. But now you never even let me know you are not coming home!"

Lovers must be sure that their wireless telephones are in tune as well as their thoughts in accord. The wireless telegraph companies are appealing to the Government to supervise aerograms because mocking amateurs are continually butting in on the Hertzian waves.

So too if lovers are not in tune, the wrong girl may get the wireless telephone proposal.

Advice to Married Men - Don't you care when your wife says angrily, "Don't tell me, I know you heard me. I called you all day and your wireless telephone was in perfect condition when you fastened it to your hat this morning when you left the house."

Affect a look of surprise and reply, "Don't be angry dear. I forgot to take off my rubbers and wore them all day."


Unknown said...

The idea seems to have been in the air. There's an eerie moment in "Tik-Tok of Oz", one of L. Frank Baum's later Oz books, in which Ozma calls up the Wizard on a wireless telephone, named as such and described as a tiny one-piece device she holds up to her ear. Baum specifies that the Wizard invented it, so it's presumably a technological rather than a magical artifact (though the surveillance screen on which Ozma is watching the Wizard at the same time is definitely magical).

Anonymous said...

Umbrella as an antenna?
I'll have to try that, I've never gotten more than three bars anywhere!

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