5 Fun Facts About the Telephone You Never Knew

The telephone permanently revolutionized communications around the globe and made it possible to conduct business, stay in touch with friends and family and quickly send news in ways that were previously impossible to do. Telephone use has become ubiquitous around the world and is so much a part of our culture that we often do not think much about its origins or about these fun facts. But the phone is so amazing that we just had to share these with you.

Read on to learn some unexpected and interesting details about a tool used in our personal lives, in the business world and in society. The telephone’s place in our culture is, at least for now, here to stay in spite of the growth and changes in telephone use.

We have great reasons to think the telephone is a fascinating technology, and by the end of this article, you probably will too. Learn more about phones and telephone history (and have a little fun with it, also!).

Article Contents:

  1. Ahoy!
  2. Pay Phones are Still Important
  3. Instant Messages are Taking Over the World
  4. History’s First Phone Book was a Single Page
  5. Mobile Phones are Golden (More So Than Gold Ore!)

Here are five fun facts about the telephone you can share with your friends and instantly look really cool (okay, maybe we cannot actually promise that).

1. The very first telephone greeting was “ahoy!” but it never really caught on.

Alexander Graham Bell, the man credited with inventing the telephone, really wanted “ahoy!” to be the greeting people would use when they answer phone calls. He tried using this greeting for a while, really hoping it would catch on. “Ahoy!” is something people say to each other when they greet on the high seas. So sailors, ship officers and other wayfarers sailing along will greet with other with an “ahoy!” as they pass. Kinda cool, but it never really caught on with phone users as the telephone started to become a more common part of our lives.

Instead, Thomas Edison’s “hello!” became the popular greeting that is now engrained in phone culture. It is almost impossible to answer the phone without it, and even now that phone technology is changing and we have smartphones, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology and other improvements, we still usually say “hello!” when we answer personal and business calls. As much as we all like sailing the high seas, it seems that phone calls are not a place for “ahoy!” At least, not since the phone’s invention!

2. Pay phones are still used by five percent of the population, at least once per year.

Pay phones are mostly a thing of the past in many places, with smartphone and cellphone use taking over. You may remember using a payphone, or maybe you never did. In any case, you probably conduct most of your phone calls with a smartphone, plain old telephone service (POTS) landline or VoIP phone. Payphones may be the last thing on your mind when you need to call someone.

Amazingly, though, 5 percent of phone users report using a payphone within the past year. There are a lot of possible reasons for this, with one big reason being a cellphone failure of some kind (your phone dies, you lose reception, etc.). In those situations where we cannot borrow someone’s phone and there is a payphone around, it makes sense to use a few quarters to make a quick call. In some places, plenty of payphones are still there, including alongside highways.

3. In 2014, it was estimated that nearly 50 billion text messages were sent every day.

Text messaging is taking over. With an estimated 50 billion text messages sent every day, businesses can no longer afford to ignore the significant impact of texting on our culture and the significant prospect of using text messaging to communicate with customers and conduct business. Texting represents a great opportunity and many businesses are still missing out, even while their employees and owners using texting in their personal lives to stay in touch with friends and family.

Since it is no longer just for bored teenagers, texting should be something businesses take a sincere and thoughtful look at as they consider expanding their business communications systems. There is etiquette involved with texting, too, and it is important that employees and employers know how to use text messaging correctly in a professional setting. Texting the wrong way can communicate rudeness, indifference or worse to customers and associates.

For instance, one survey found that 41 percent of Millennials believe someone is rude if they send a text message and do not immediately answer a phone call. Prompt responses to incoming calls after a text conversation are important, and they appear to be important to this generation’s consumers. So, if you do choose to use text messaging in your business communications, learn how to use it correctly and responsibly.

4. The first phone book in history was just one page long.

Published in 1878 (just two years after the telephone was invented), this single sheet of paper was printed by the New Haven District Telephone Company. It did not list phone numbers, either, because you could just dial the operator and ask for the subscriber by name! It listed private homes, businesses of various types and public offices. At that point, it goes without saying that the phone had yet to really catch on with the vast majority of people. But, it was a promising start to what would eventually become, in popular culture, something that is often hundreds of pages long.

Many people use their phone books as paperweights, impromptu step stools and ladders, or even booster seats for shorter people and children. The phone book has a reputation as a huge, detailed reference book known mainly for its size. What a change of events for the humble phone book!

5. A ton of mobile phones, weighed out, actually has more gold than a ton of gold ore from a mine.

Yes, if you weighed out a ton of mobile phones and compared it with a ton of ore removed from the gold mine, you would probably find more gold in the phones than in the mine. It is actually true that cellphone manufacturers use gold when they make smartphones. Gold, it turns out, is a very effective electrical conductor. Many electronic items feature gold and use it to transport electrical signals.

Photo: Gold pins inside a microprocessor

Gold has practical use in industry besides just being a valuable metal or having uses in the making of jewelry. For electronics manufacturers, gold has become an important and useful component in wiring. As more electronics are produced around the world, more gold is needed.

While it is also true that your smartphone probably does not have enough gold to actually make you rich if you melt it down and sell it for scrap, it does actually have gold and it has more, per pound, than ore that is mined for gold. The expensive price you paid for your smartphone, though, is probably more about the device’s popularity and features than the gold it has inside. So you probably cannot pawn it for the gold’s value after your phone’s obsolete.

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