Friday, 26 April 2013

The world's first "mobile" phone (in 1906)

French inventor Louis Maiche and his wireless phone,  arguably also the world's first mobile phone.
(image published in the Swedish weekly Hvar 8 Dag in September

"M. Louis Maiche is the inventor of the wireless telephone and, like many scientists, is not so famous as he ought to be". 

That is how an article in the Auckland Star on March 6, 1907, introduced the French inventor Louis Maiche, who also could be called the inventor of a mobile phone.

In the article M. Maiche describes how it all began:

"My first trials took place in 1867, but they were concerned more with wireless telegraphy, and it was not until 1893 that I exchanged a conversation through a wireless telephone at a distance of 30 yards."

Two months earlier, the New York Times had also published an article on M. Maiche and his wireless telephone invention. In the article the inventor refers to his successful experiments with telegraphy and then describes his work with the wireless telephone:

"I then made use of the ground as a means of transmission. The discovery of to-day enables me to do away with all visible means of communication and to project the words in any given direction without the danger that they may be radiated elsewhere; and, more interesting still, I do this with an infinitesimal expenditure of electricity, while, as you well know, other wireless telegraphic and telephone systems expend enormous amounts of electricity radiated in all directions."

"When once perfected my apparatus may be practically used at an insignificant cost. Just now it is still  at the laboratory and experimental stages." 

"You see", said M. Maiche,"that our experiments have succeeded in spite of all obstacles. Neither the water, nor rocks,nor ice can interfere. All that the telegrapher considers as insurmountable barriers we easily pass through. Surely we have much to perfect! All that we have done up to the present is to be able to converse distinctly up to a distance of a little over 1,800 feet. But once the practicality of the theory is established, then the mechanism must be perfected."

"It is being perfected day by day - just as Branly one day succeeded in modifying the conductibility of his tube  fillings from one end of his laboratory to the other, thereby making wireless telegraphy an established fact. And it will the same with our wireless telephone,which seems to us called to a very different destiny, not as aid to war,but as an aid to peace, as a savior of human life."

In the Auckland Star article M. Maiche gives some examples of the future use of his wireless telephone:

"Imagine two steamers steering through a fog. With my little apparatus the captain can tell the direction the other ship is taking. In case of an accident to a submarine my apparatus would enable the crew in danger to communicate with the convoying tug without fearing the breaking of a line as in the case of a telephone buoy. Miners entombed after a disaster like that at Courrieres could communicate with the rescue party. Two army corps making a night attack could keep in constant touch without risk of interruption. The ordinary citizen could have it in his drawing room, and would no longer be dependent upon the vagaries of the telephone exchange." 

Both articles also include some technical descriptions of the use of M. Maiche's new wireless phone. It is possible that the French inventor's theories were not as successful as he himself thought. Otherwise it is difficult to understand why this page (in French) is the only one with information about him that I have been able to locate. Still, his concept of wireless (and mobile) telephony should merit him a place in the hall of fame of modern communication technology .


If you look closer at M. Maiche's wireless phone, it does bear a certain resemblance to the first Nokia (Mobira) mobile phone from 1982!
Mobira Senator (1982)

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