Telephone SAN FRANCISCO — I was here on a simple quest: curious to know if the inventors of Twitter were as annoying as their invention. — Maureen Dowd, “To Tweet or Not to Tweet,” New York Times, April 22, 2009.
BOSTON –Edgar Allan Poe would love Alexander Graham Bell’s workshop here. Pendulums, buzzers, and ticking sounds everywhere, with a mysterious note to the chambermaid in crabbed script. In a droll nod to shifting technologies, there’s an 18th-century ear trumpet on the settee, where Mr. Bell evidently left it while in a fog of inventive absentmindedness.
I was here on a simple quest: curious to know if the inventor of the telephone was as loud, intrusive, and soul-destroying as his invention.
I sat down with Mr. Bell, 39, and his assistant Thomas Watson, 22, and asked them to explain why they shouldn’t be condemned to a slow, painful death.
ME: The telephone seems like letter-writing without the paper and pen. Is there any message that can’t wait for a passenger pigeon?
BELL: Possibly the message I’d like to deliver to you right now.
ME: Did you know you were designing a toy for bored housewives and the indolent rich?
BELL: Actually, I was trying to help deaf people.
ME: I heard about a woman who telephoned her husband to say she was in the throes of childbirth. Whatever happened to private pain?