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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Electrophone

The name Electrophone was used for a telephone-distributed audio system which operated in the United Kingdom between 1895 and 1926, relaying live theatre and music hall shows and, on Sundays, live sermons from churches via special headsets connected to conventional phone lines. This was similar to the French Theatrophone system and the Hungarian Telefon Hirmondó [fascinating link!] which carried news, entertainment and fiction readings. These systems can be seen as important forerunners of radio broadcasting. [from Wikipedia]

I first read about the Electrophone in one of my books, - a 1923 edition of Herbert Jenkins' vade mecum Enquire Within upon Everything. Before the establishemt of regular broadcasts by thto thee BBC it was possible to purchase an Electrophone for the sum of £10 per annum for a home installation. The normal telephone would have up to four receivers attached.

Imagine holding the earpiece to one's ear and listening on your phone - probably with poor sound quality, to a concert from (for instance) the Albert Hall or to the Victoria Palace Music Hall. All one had to do was call the telephone operator and ask to be connectd to ones chosen concert venue. Each venue would have had microphones in the footlights transmitting the sounds through the telephone wires.

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