On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell toiled in his lab in Boston, Massachusetts.
The lab was actually a few small bedrooms in a boardinghouse. Hanging on one of the walls was a portrait of an owl. It was given to the inventor as a joke because he often worked late into the night.
A pale, tall man with sideburns and a bushy mustache, Bell stared at his unusual contraption. He had been working on it for several years. Along the way, his invention had become an instrument of metal, rods, and wires.
Bell had experimented with many other machines, but those trials had ended in failure. Sometimes he got discouraged, but he never gave up. Now history was about to be made.
To see if the device would work, Bell called into the mouthpiece: "Mr. Watson -- Come here -- I want to see you." Seconds later, his assistant burst through the door. He had heard Bell's voice, even though he was in another room with a hallway in between.
The two men switched places. Thomas Watson read from a book. A few of his words came through clearly. Then he said: "Mr. Bell, do you understand what I say?" Alexander Graham Bell heard every word.
After years of research, the telephone was finally born. Bell had built a machine that turned words into electric impulses. These impulses could be sent through a wire and heard at the other end.
Alexander Graham Bell's incredible invention was just the first step toward the modern telephone -- a device that changed the world. Yet the real story of the telephone began many years before. It began when a young, curious boy tinkered with inventions in his parents' home. He was growing interested in a subject that had fascinated the Bell family for years -- the science of speech.