By Paul Anderson
I remember as a kid I was fascinated with phones. The idea that you could pick up the phone, dial it, and talk to someone on the other end was pretty neat. And… at the time, a phone was an elegantly designed electro-mechanical work of art, and it was fun to take them apart to try and figure out how they worked. I could understand how the phone itself worked, but as a kid, what happened after those two wires headed off to the pole was somewhat of a mystery to me. Eventually I came to understand the massive infrastructure that allowed reliable telephone service into the home to be possible. Hats off to Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone.
When you think of a basic phone, it seems like such a simple thing. It can receive, it can transmit, and it can provide bidirectional signaling. Receiving and transmitting is obviously important, and it took a while for folks to figure out how to do both simultaneously without a bunch of extra wires and things. Signaling is equally important. The user of the device needs to know when someone is trying to contact them, and to be able to establish contact with someone else out on the network. A phone is actually a very clever thing, particularly when one thinks of what people did with what they had at the time, particularly in a world before the transistor.
But, what is a phone really? It is a service gateway. In its most simple form, it provides telephone service. That service then allows connectivity to other services, like the ability to call the plumber when your sink gets clogged, or order a pizza. Quite amazing!