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Music downloads

Music first sent down a telephone line in 1876

So you think downloading music from the Internet via a phone line is a really cool modern thing? Not so.

In 1896, Thaddeus Cahill filed a patent on the “art of and apparatus for generating and distributing music electronically” and until 1914 he fed music signals down AT&T’s telephone lines with his Telharmoniums apparatus. And he wasn’t even the first. Elisha Gray transmitted music over a telephone line in 1876 – the same year the telephone was patented Alexander Graham Bell. Gray invented the first electronic music instrument in 1874, calling it the “Musical Telegraph.”

(Other claims for the invention of the telephone include Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Innocenzo Manzetti, Charles Bourseul, Amos Dolbear, Sylvanus Cushman, Daniel Drawbaugh, Edward Farrar, and James McDonough. The debate over the invention of the telephone is discussed in detail at about.com – History of the Telephone)

Alexander Graham Bell also designed an experimental “Electric Harp” for speech transmission over a telephone line using similar technology to Gray’s. Bell also was a teacher of speech to the deaf. In 1879 he created an audiometer to detect hearing loss. That is why the degrees of loudness came to be measured in bels or decibels.


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