Happy Telephone Day

Before Lady Gaga: “Call all you want, but there’s no one home / And you’re not gonna reach my telephone” (2009).

Before E.T.: “E.T. phone home” (1982).

There was Johann Philipp Reis: “Das Pferd frisst keinen Gurkensalat” (1861).

150 years ago today, on October 26, 1861, Johann Philipp Reis demonstrated the newly invented telephone with these words (roughly: “The horse doesn’t eat cucumber salad”), and the rest, as they say, was history…

In honor of the telephone’s 150th birthday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung has an entertaining little article by Bernd Graff (here). Graff’s brief cultural history (“kleine Kulturgeschichte”) of the telephone also touches (very lightly) upon some of the more interesting techno-phenomenological aspects of human-telephone relations, and there are some concluding thoughts from Benjamin, Proust, McLuhan, and Flusser. (Keep in mind, it’s a popular article, but it plants some nice seeds for further thought and research.) Also interesting: Die Zeit Online has a brief summary of Johann Philipp Reis’s life, written especially for kids, with a pointer to a radio program this coming Sunday, at 8:05, on NDR Info (Mikado – Radio für Kinder).

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