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Portrait of Reis Reis, Philip (1834-1874)

It's not certain whether it could be described as a telephone, but Philip Reis wasactually the first man to transmit sound electrically.

Born and raised in Germany, Reis could already read German, French, English, Latin and Italian by the age of 10 and he was keenly interested in mathematics and science.

After a forced spell working in business he escaped to begin teaching Maths and Science. At the age of 26 Reis dreamed up the idea of reproducing sound by mirroring vibrations at either end of an electrified wire.

The invention was inspired but very primitive. He used the bung of a beer barrel, a piece of skin, a magnet, a coil of wire, a knitting needle, a violin, some platinum and, hey-presto, he created a talking-machine.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...