From Science Fiction to Part of Daily Life

February 28, 2022                                                                                                                                        Home

We all take electricity for granted – whether turning on a light, a TV, or an air conditioner.  And yet, it has not been that long since electricity has been available.  Samuel Morse (creator of Morse Code) invented the electric telegraph, which made it possible to send messages long distances across wires.  In 1879, the first public street lights were in use in Cleveland, Ohio. That same year the California Electric Light Company in San Francisco was the first electric company to sell electricity to customers.

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Several generations back, the cell phone or a wrist device – that could be used to provide information and make phone calls – belonged to the world of science fiction.   As a kid, reading Dick Tracy cartoons, I marveled at the idea that people could talk to each other with a device worn on the wrist.  How could that ever be possible?  

And now, though the digital phone/watches are too expensive for most of us, a cell phone is essential.  For older folks, how many years or decades did we exist without cell phones?  Leave home now without your phone and you feel you are missing something very important.

How does a cell phone work?  The cell phone and similar devices use a system of tiny circuits or pathways.  A cellphone contains a radio transmitter to send radio signals and a radio receiver for receiving incoming signals from other phones. 

When you speak into a cellphone, a tiny microphone in the handset converts the up-and-down sounds of your voice into a corresponding up-and-down pattern of electrical signals. A microchip inside the phone turns these signals into strings of numbers. The numbers are packed up into a radio wave and beamed out from the phone’s antenna. The radio wave moves through the air at the speed of light until it reaches the nearest cellphone tower.

Cell phone tower

This tower receives the signals and passes them on to its base station, which is called a cell. From the base station, the calls are routed to their destination – either directly or through another cell tower and base station. For most of us in Hancock County, this all takes place within the Verizon network.

Calls made to a cellphone on a different network or a land line follow a more lengthy path. They may have to be routed into another system of cell towers or the main telephone network before they can reach their destination.  These calls take a bit longer to connect.

Cell phones and similar devices do not need to be connected to electricity to function, but they must be recharged by electricity.  For the most part, smartphones (which are growing in popularity) need to be plugged into an electric outlet to receive updates. 

Hopefully this article gives you some information about how phones and phone calls work.  Thanks to  for some of the information above.

Everyone needs to learn more about electricity and our electric cooperative.  To learn more, go to

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