A precursor of the mobile phone ?

train phone pic 001Today, thanks to mobile phone technology, we can easily hold a conversation on a train with someone hundreds of miles away. Back in 1930, many decades before the mobile was developed, experts at Canadian National Telegraphs were bringing this convenience to rail travellers.

According to a short piece in the issue of Armchair Science for July 1930, a passenger on the ‘ International Limited ‘ service of Canadian National Railways was now able to ‘ complete a call from the moving train to his residence or place of business ‘. In addition, it was now possible for someone ‘ in Montreal, Toronto, or elsewhere to establish communication with a friend on the train, whether in motion or standing ‘. It was not explicitly stated what the maximum range in miles might be for these calls. What is certain though, is that for possibly the first time the phrase ‘I’m on the train ‘ was heard by fellow passengers who frankly couldn’t have cared less.

This radical development in telecommunications was made possible, it seems, by ‘the setting up of a series of “channels” on one wire circuit ‘ by means of which ‘ a number of messages can be sent in each direction at the same time.’ This was, according to the article, a form of ‘broadcasting ‘, using wires and was known amongst telegraphists as “wired wireless”. [R.M.Healey]

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