EST. 2009

March 10, 2015

Those Hellos

"HELLO? IS IT ME YOU'RE LOOKING FOR?" Lionel Richie may have topped the charts with his 1984 single, but even its iconic lyrics take a backseat to the historical "Mr. Watson--come here--I want to see you." Nine words formed the first-ever sentence to be transmitted via telephone, uttered by Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant Thomas Watson. The two men were merely in adjoining rooms but the message was conveyed through the instrument, with a speed and clarity previously unachieved by any telecommunication system.

"To my delight he came and declared that he had heard and understood what I said." wrote Bell in his notebook entry of March 10, 1876, describing his first successful experiment with the telephone. 139 years since that first vocal transmission, telephones have developed, evolved and declined at the hands of internet telephony, text messaging, instant messaging and video calls. Though research firm TeleGeography affirms that fixed line telephony is "a far cry from dead", it's hard not to see it in a retro or vintage light. "Telephone" simply brings to my mind rotary dials, springy cords and digital-clock-like displays; details from memory that instantly give my age away.

As a tribute to the first voice call made today in 1876, here's a look at some fine and fabulous moments in the history of telephony, presented by no less than a shirtless Clint Eastwood and a shirted chimpanzee. Perhaps now is a good time too, to rethink our preferred modes of communication. Amidst the daily deluge of heart-eyed emojis, multiple punctuations, erroneously auto-corrected words and the 24/7 bleeping and blooping of simultaneous chat apps, we might just regain those now-rare human nuances with a voice call, started off with a good old-fashioned "Hello."

Audrey Hepburn in 1953, three sailors phoning in 1955, Princess Elizabeth in 1946, Catherine Deneuve in 1968, Son Of The Emir Of Kano in the early 1900s, Clint Eastwood in 1960, Iris Hoey in 1910, Marilyn Monroe in 1956, policeman on Brooklyn Bridge in 1955, John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1969, Mary Ellen Terry in 1952, the world's first TV telephone in 1964, chimpanzee phoning in 1955, Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960, Barbra Streisand in 1965, an elephant and a British telephone box in 1955, Nona Hendryx, Patti Labelle and Sarah Dash in 1955, David Bowie in 1987. All images from