Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by mike from AL. mike Wonders, “How are phones made? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, mike!
Ring! Ring! Hello! What’s that familiar sound? It’s the phone, of course. Whether it’s a land line at home or a cell phone on the go, the ring of a phone is music to our ears. When we hear that sound, we know we’re about to hear the voice of a friend or loved one.
Many of us take phones for granted. After all, the technology has been around a long time. But isn’t it incredible all the same?
Hundreds of years ago, your communication options were quite limited. If you had a message for a friend, you could tell them in person or write them a letter. Today you might text, post, or email someone a message. Or you can pick up a phone to hear their voice on the other end…and they could even be on top of a mountain at the other end of the world!
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell patented the first telephone. The technology in existence at that time was not very advanced. Surprisingly, though, the basic technology that makes land line phones work hasn’t changed drastically in the 100 years and more since then.
Home phones, or land lines as they are commonly known now, are very simple devices that, at their most basic, require only a switch, a speaker, and a microphone. Of course, most land line phones have various other types of technology to improve their sound and performance.
Many phones in homes and offices are called land lines because they are connected to a phone network via physical wires and cables. A wired connection runs from the inside and connects to a phone box on the outside. From that box, many wires are bound together that then connect to a phone company’s local switch. At the phone company’s switch, advanced computer systems connect your call to the person you want to speak with.
Although many intermediate steps are involved along the way, a phone’s basic operation involves turning your voice from sound waves into digital data that is then transmitted along various lines until it reaches the phone of the person you’re speaking to. In the recipient’s phone, the digital data is converted by the speaker back into sound waves you recognize as the voice of the person you’re speaking to.
For many years, phone users were bound by land lines. To speak to someone, you needed to be at home where your phone was. If you were on the go, you were out of luck unless you could find a pay phone to use. Of course, all of that changed when cell phones were developed.
Unlike land lines, cell phones are not bound by physical wires. With a cell phone, you’re free to travel and roam far away from home and still stay in touch with those you love. Although it probably seems normal to be able to stay connected no matter where you are in today's world, the limits of communication were much different before cell phones.
So, how do cell phones transmit your voice to another phone without wires? They do it through the air! At a basic level, cell phones are just extremely sophisticated radios.
With the number of cell phones in use every day, the usual range of radio frequencies simply would not allow for enough channels for everyone to communicate. However, the cellular system divides areas into smaller areas, called cells, which allow the limited number of frequencies to be reused across a wider area.
As the number of cell phone users in an area increases, mobile phone carriers will usually respond by building more cell towers in that area. This allows current cells to be further subdivided in order to improve coverage and service for all users.
With the invention of digital cell phones, radio technology was maximized by digitizing and compressing signal information to make the most of the frequencies available. Today, a modern smartphone is a miniature computer in your hand. Unlike a basic land line phone, a modern smartphone contains amazing and complex technology that allows you to do so much more than simply speak with someone on the other end of the line!