Alexander Graham Bell - historic callOn March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made perhaps the most famous phone call in history, from his Boston laboratory, summoning his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, who was in the next room, with the following words: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” A phrase so short, the entirety of the message could have fit into a tweet.

Little could the Scottish-born scientist know that less than 130 years later men and women the world over would be using an iteration of his primitive device to play Words with Friends when they should be working and teenagers would use it to type random letters like LOL to their best friend Meagan for no apparent reason.

Bell was a pioneer of the greatest societal-changing bleeding-edge technology of his era. One can only imagine, then, what his very first phone call might have been like, had he had the advanced technology of Skype internet video calling available for this momentous occasion. The following is a dramatic reenactment of how many scholars believe the call might have gone.

BELL: Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.


BELL: I said, Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.

WATSON: I’m sorry, Mr. Bell. I can see your lips moving, but I’m not hearing anything. 

BELL: Oh, dear. I can see you, Mr. Watson, but I cannot make out a word of which you speak.


BELL: I can see that you’re trying to impart a message, but alas, I am not able to detect the sounds emanating from your lips.

WATSON: Still nothing. Sorry, sir. By George, I’ve an idea. Perhaps you’re muted. Might that be the problem?

BELL: Oh, that’s much better, Watson. Can you hear me?

WATSON: Yes, Mr. Bell. I hear you ju$% fi# $#(%$ $%!  Um, as I was say- [The audio drops suddenly.]  Like I … unable to #$&% …you’re … &$##(*!@

BELL: What in the Lord’s name are you trying to impart, my dear Watson? I am hearing all sorts of ruckus, and I am barely able to comprehend a word you utter!

WATSON: Sorry, sir. What I said was say?% *%  wa-  #!@)~”  [The audio drops again.] … because I had to clea-clea-clea-clea-clea-clea- ……

BELL: Watson, your words are garbled. They repeat themselves not unlike a broken Victrola!

WATSON: I really must apolo- .. %^*ne# let me tr- ”@… [The audio breaks up completely.]  … would you agree, sir?

BELL: Would I agree with WHAT, you bloody fool? I should have stopped at the telegraph. This infernal device is infuriating! Sheer rubbish.

WATSON: Sorry, sir. Tell me, can you see me in your webcam?

BELL: My web what?

WATSON: Webcam, sir. It’s a camera attached to your image box through which are emitted images of ourselves and received by the other person’s similarly affixed camera on their end.

BELL: You have me completely befuddled, Watson.

WATSON: Do you see me on that screen in front of you, sir?

BELL: Well, all I can see is the brim of your top hat.

WATSON: Ah, sorry about that. Let me adjust my web cam. And I can see-see-see… [image freezes and audio locks up.]

BELL: Watson, what just happened? Is there a reason you are motionless like a Greek statue? … Watson? … Watson? [Call drops completely.] 

[Watson calls back. The call rings and rings, but Bell does not pick up. Watson leaves his office and goes down the hall to Bell’s office.]

Alexander Graham Bell - Skype headsetWATSON: Sir?

BELL: Good heavens, you startled me, Watson. What is it and why are you here instead of in your office?

WATSON: The call dropped, sir. I was trying to call you back, but you have to click on the green phone icon in order to answer.

BELL: What’s an “icon”?

WATSON: An ICON is… Um, never mind, sir. Just let me call you back and when you hear the ringy-dingy sound, click the green phone here.

[Watson returns to his office and calls Bell again. Bell picks up.]

BELL: This is Bell. With whom am I speaking?

WATSON: Not to be impertinent, sir, but who the bloody hell do you think it is? It’s me, Watson!

BELL: All right, my good fellow. No need to get your knickers in a twist.

WATSON: I apologize, sir. It’s just that, well, I dare say, this Skype device seems to be rather glitch-glitch-glitch-gli-gli-gli- [screen locks up again]

BELL: Watson, you’re doing that Victrola thing again, my good fellow.

WATSON: [screen unfreezes] Sorry about that. My computer keeps locking up. I think we have rather limited bandwidth.

BELL: Band-what?

WATSON: Never mind. I will explain it to you later, sir.  And I wa- … [call drops again.] 

BELL: Watson? WATSON!!

WATSON: Sorry about that. I’m back, sir. Well, this is interesting, sir. There is some fellow named Antonio Meucci who is trying to join our Skype call. Would you like me to let him join us?

BELL: Oh Hell, no, lad! That Italian chap has tried to claim that he invented the telephone several years before I did. He tries to take credit for all my inventions. He’s as bad as that Edison fellow.

WATSON:  Hear, hear, sir. By the way, did you-you-you-you-you-you- …  [call locks up again]

BELL: Watson? WATSON?? Oh, for the love of Saint Peter. This Skype device is utter bollocks. It will never catch on, that’s for certain.

WATSON: You’re probably right, sir. By the way, have you heard of this thing called the horseless carriage? Supposedly it can propel the occupant about town by means of something called “an engine”. No horse required.

BELL: Balderdash! And I suppose you’re going to tell me soon we’ll be flying around in the sky like an eagle? Utter bunkum.

WATSON: Bunkum indeed, sir. Well, I must go. Seems that I am getting a call from my wife. I wonder how she got this number.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

Tim Jones - Profile at Safeco - TinyPS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2015

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