Did Alexander Graham Bell Say Hello?

Contributor: Jay Gregorio. Lesson ID: 13254

Hello? Can you hear me? Is this the greatest invention ever, or what? Alexander Graham Bell did NOT think so! Discover all about the telephone and the man who invented it (even if he didn't like it).


Communications, Physical Science

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


"Mr. Watson, come here - I want to see you."

And with that, the very first telephone conversation was over!

That's right. The very first phone call did not contain the word hello. In fact, there wasn't even a ring!

Alexander Graham Bell used his new electrical apparatus to summon his assistant. While we cannot hear that conversation, the Smithsonian Institution has been able to restore some of its earliest audio recordings.

Listen to "Hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell" from CBS News:

  • So why do we say "hello" when we answer a phone call?

The original telephones were just an open line between parties, and you would simply start to speak when you wanted to start a conversation. There was no ring to grab attention, so Alexander Graham Bell suggested saying "Ahoy!" to let the other party know you wanted to talk.

However, Thomas Edison insisted "Hello!" was the way to grab someone's attention. People at the time agreed. The new telephone's first public exchange in New Haven, Connecticut on January 28, 1878 began with "Hello" followed by "What is wanted?"

No matter how it is answered, the telephone is undoubtedly one of the breakthrough inventions of the century! Let's get to know the inventor himself.

Who Is Alexander Graham Bell?

Alexander Graham Bell, 1914

Image by Moffett Studio from Library and Archives Canada, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3, 1847. He was the second son of Alexander Melville Bell and Eliza Grace Symonds Bell. Alexander was named after his paternal grandfather. The middle name Graham was added when he was 10 years old.

He had two brothers, Melville James Bell and Edward Charles Bell, both of whom died from tuberculosis. Growing up, Alexander was always interested in experimenting with sounds and assisting the deaf with communication, which makes sense given his parents' background.

Alexander's father was an expert in the mechanics of voice and elocution. Ironically, his mother was deaf but a good pianist! Despite her condition, Bell's mother taught him at home and inspired him to be more curious about the world around him.

Bell was very observant and a great problem solver. He would often study problems until he could invent something in his home workshop to fix it! His mother eventually decided to send him for formal training at a private school and then later to the Royal High School, a reputable institution.

Watch Alexander Graham Bell Biography, from CloudBiography, to learn more:

The Invention That Changed the World

Alexander Graham Bell moved to Canada in 1870. In 1872, he moved to Boston, where he opened a school for teachers of the deaf. He is credited with inventing the first working telephone in 1876 and later founded the Bell Telephone Company in 1877.

Bell's early experiments included ways to improve and use telegraphy, flying machines, and hydrofoils. His talent led to 18 patents for his inventions and work in communications.

The telegraph was a rather new concept in the 1870s. It conveyed messages through a system of electrical sounds that were then decoded and translated in words. To send or receive one of these messages, you had to go to the telegraph office, where only one message could be sent at a time.

In 1871, Bell started working on the harmonic telegraph, which was a device that allowed multiple messages to be transmitted over a wire at the same time. However, his problem-solver attitude led him to wonder if voices could be transmitted over wires as well.

With the help of his assistant, Mr. Watson, Bell devised a simple receiver that could turn electricity into sound. There were other scientists working on the same technology, but Alexander was the first to rush to the patent office to secure his rights over the invention.

model replica of the first telephone

Image by Zubro, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Watch the BBC Earth Lab video below to better understand how these first telephones worked.

Alexander Graham Bell's Telephone Prototype | The Genius of Invention | Earth Lab:

Head over to the Got It? section to review all you have just learned about Alexander Graham Bell and his telephone!

Elephango's Philosophy

We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.