So you think downloading music from the Internet via a phone line is a really cool modern thing? Not so.
In 1896, Thaddeus Cahill filed a patent on the “art of and apparatus for generating and distributing music electronically” and until 1914 he fed music signals down AT&T’s telephone lines with his Telharmoniums apparatus. And he wasn’t even the first. Elisha Gray transmitted music over a telephone line in 1876 – the same year the telephone was patented by Alexander Graham Bell. Gray had actually filed for a patent for the telephone on the same day as Bell’s attorney, Marcellus Baily, filed one for Bell, a few hours earlier on February 14, 1876. But Bell was awarded the patent, US Patent 174,465 – the design of which was notoriously similar to that of Gray’s invention. It is now widely acknowledged that Gray was the first to invent the telephone.
Gray also invented the first electronic music instrument in 1874, calling it the “Musical Telegraph,” for which he was awarded US Patent 166,096 titled “Electric Telegraph for Transmitting Musical Tones” on July 27, 1875.
Other claims for the invention of the telephone include Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Innocenzo Manzetti, Charles Bourseul, Amos Dolbear, Sylvanus Cushman, Daniel Drawbaugh, Edward Farrar, and James McDonough. The debate over the invention of the telephone is discussed in detail at about.com – History of the Telephone
Alexander Graham Bell also designed an experimental “Electric Harp” for speech transmission over a telephone line using, once again, similar technology to Gray’s. Bell also was a teacher of speech to the deaf. In 1879 he created an audiometer to detect hearing loss. That is why the degrees of loudness came to be measured in bels or decibels.