Alexander Graham Bell experimented with wireless phones as early as 1880, but the idea was largelyu forgotten – and was not to become widespread until the second half of the twentieth century.
By 1920, at least one intrepid inventor American was trialling a car-phone – the ancestor of the car phones that appeared in the Seventies, and great-grandfather of the mobile phones we use today.
Other inventors were experimenting with the idea at the time – a Pathe archive from 1922 shows people in New York talking on another primitive device plugged into a fire hydrant. But W W McFarlane’s invention is certainly among the earliest.
The device, invented by Philadelpia experimenter W W McFarlane required three pieces of stove pipe stuck to a board as an aerial.
Unlike many wireless ‘telephones’ of the period, it could transmit and receive, like a contemporary telephone.
It worked over a range of up to 500 yards, the newspaper reports.
British film firm Pathe’s archive video is two years ‘younger’ – dating from 1922.
Titled Eve’s Wireless, it shows two women in New York carrying a hefty device which they plug into a fire hydrant. It was found by accident in Pathe’s archive in 2010.