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Black & white still, National Film Unit. | by Archives New Zealand
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Black & white still, National Film Unit.

Female at desk with two telephones. Date on calendar: 10th October, 1967.


Black & white still

4" x 5" cellulose acetate negative

Preservation Master

Archives New Zealand reference: AAPG 24449 W3939 Box 6 / [16] D.4


Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Bell's father, grandfather, and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech, and both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing Bell's life's work. His research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices which eventually culminated in Bell being awarded the first US patent for the telephone in 1876.


During a June 2, 1875 experiment by Bell and his assistant Thomas Watson, a receiver reed failed to respond to the intermittent current supplied by an electric battery. Bell told Watson, who was at the other end of the line, to pluck the reed, thinking it had stuck to the pole of the magnet. Mr. Watson complied, and to his astonishment Bell heard a reed at his end of the line vibrate and emit the same timbre of a plucked reed, although there was no interrupted on-off-on-off currents from a transmitter to make it vibrate. A few more experiments soon showed that his receiver reed had been set in vibration by the magneto-electric currents induced in the line by the motion of the distant receiver reed in the neighborhood of its magnet. The battery current was not causing the vibration but was needed only to supply the magnetic field in which the reeds vibrated. Moreover, when Bell heard the rich overtones of the plucked reed, it occurred to him that since the circuit was never broken, all the complex vibrations of speech might be converted into undulating (modulated) currents, which in turn would reproduce the complex timbre, amplitude, and frequencies of speech at a distance.


Bell did for the telephone what Henry Ford did for the automobile. Although not the first to experiment with telephonic devices, Bell and the companies founded in his name were the first to develop commercially practical telephones around which a successful business could be built and grow. Bell adopted carbon transmitters similar to Edison's transmitters and adapted telephone exchanges and switching plug boards developed for telegraphy. Watson and other Bell engineers invented numerous other improvements to telephony. Bell succeeded where others failed to assemble a commercially viable telephone system.


The 1960s image above shows a woman at a desk, with what appears to be two Bakelite rotary dial telephones. It is from a black & white still produced by the National Film Unit.


The National Film Unit was established to publicise New Zealand's participation and achievements during the Second World War. After 1945 the Film Unit expanded from producing weekly newsreels to making documentaries and films to the order of Government Departments. During its existence the Film Unit produced films for national organisations as well as many films on its own initiative. The private film industry in New Zealand relied heavily on the National Film Unit's extensive film processing facilities.


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Uploaded on February 9, 2017