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This Week in Tech History: Xerox Heads to the Museum

A new phone greeting is proposed, the electric car starter is patented and a revolutionary office machine retires to the museum … It all happened This Week in Tech History.

1877 – A brand new telephone system was being setup in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Thomas Edison wrote the president of the Telegraph Company and stated that the word, “hello” would be a more appropriate greeting than “ahoy,” as suggested by Alexander Graham Bell when answering the telephone. At the time, Edison envisioned the telephone as a business device only, with a permanently open line to parties at either end. Some people had the idea of an alarm bell at each end to alert one office that the other office wanted to speak. Edison’s letter said, “Friend David, I don’t think we shall need a call bell as Hello! can be heard 10 to 20 feet away. What do you think?” “Hello” became the standard greeting as the first telephone exchanges, equipped by Edison, were set up across the US and operation manuals adopted the word.

1915 – Charles Kettering of Detroit, MI patented the electric, automobile self-starter. Before the electric self-starting engine, drivers had to go to the front of their car and turn a hand crank to start the engine. This was a very dangerous process that sometimes caused injury when the crank would kick back and strike an unsuspecting driver. In fact, it was an incident in 1908, when a close friend of Henry Leland, the Chief at Cadillac, died due to complications when an automobile crank broke his jaw. So Leland turned to Charles Kettering, to come up with a better way to start a vehicle.

1985 – The machine that revolutionized the world’s offices, the original Xerox 914 copier, took its place among the honored machines of other eras at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. The document copier had been formally introduced to the world in March of 1960. In just twenty-five years, the machine, invented by Chester Carlson, a patent lawyer, had become obsolete enough to make it into the museum.

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Written by Chris Graveline

Chris has covered consumer technology for over 20 years. He is the host of This Week in Tech History as well as a regular co-host on "Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline" and our Technical Director.

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