Music on Your Phone—in 1906

Toronto, ON, Canada / 102.1 the Edge

Here’s a question: how long have we been able to get music on our phones? Ten years? Fifteen? Would you believe ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN? It’s true. If we go back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was possible to listen to music through your phone. Let me introduce you to Thaddeus Cahill, an American inventor who invested a lot of time and money in an electro-mechanical system weighing 200 tons he called the telharmonium. It was seen as uber-modern and cool as streaming music services are today. You, as a subscriber, would pick up your phone and get connected to an operator. You’d then tell the operator you’d like to listen to some music and she’d connect you to the telharmonium. Music would then flow through your phone. It was a little quiet—amplifiers hadn’t been invented yet—so you’d fit a large paper cone to the earpiece of your phone to naturally make the music louder. Imagine what Thaddeus would think of today’s smartphones.