SF commemorates day telecommunications history was made

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San Francisco commemorated the day it made telecommunications history by placing the first transcontinental phone call.

A lot can happen in a century. Just think, 100 years ago no one had ever made a phone call from New York to San Francisco.

But that was all about to change.

On Thursday, San Francisco commemorated the day it made telecommunications history.

"To transmit the human voice over 3,400 miles was considered absolutely impossible," AT&T California President Ken McNeely said.

But that changed on January 25, 1915.

A century ago, the very first transcontinental phone call was made. One of the many phones on display was held by President Woodrow Wilson himself.

"I think it's appropriate for me, 100 years later, to take a selfie," McNeeely joked.

When McNeely's predecessor held one of the phones on display, they didn't have cameras or touch screens.

"Now we walk around with computers in our pockets and no one, certainly Alexander Graham Bell, would never have envisioned that his initial ideas would've been spread so far," McNeely said.

At the time, it took 7,000 miles of cable to connect what was actually a four-way conference call.

Alexander Graham Bell was on the line in New York and the man in San Francisco was none other than Thomas Watson.

"Bell called out to me, 'Mr. Watson, come here. I want you,'" Watson said back in 1915.

The big event was at the 1915 World's Fair and thousands were watching.

"Imagine everything that had to work that day, so you send the person you trust the most," California Historical Society CEO Anthea Hartig said.

The Palace of Fine Arts is the most iconic remnant of the 1915 World's Fair, but this isn't where those old telephones were first shown off. They made their debut at the Palace of Industry.

Oh, what a difference a century makes.
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technologytelephonehistorygadgetsu.s. & worldmuseumsSan FranciscoNew York
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