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Collections: Electricity Sparks Invention (1800-1900)

Hush-A-Phone

Hush-A-Phone

This unassuming little device, called a "Hush-A-Phone," is a small rectangular baffle that fits over the mouthpiece of a candlestick telephone. There is an opening in the front just big enough to place your lips into. When you speak, the party on the other end of the line can hear clearly, but no one in the room with you can make out a single peep.

In the late 1940's AT&T company repairmen began warning customers that using devices like the Hush-A-Phone could result in termination of phone service.  Hush-A-Phone protested to the FCC, asking them to order the phone company to authorize use of the device, and when the FCC failed to do so, Hush-A-Phone took them to court.

The case was eventually decided in December, 1955 in favor of Hush-A-Phone, a defining moment in the development of an aftermarket for telephone equipment, which eventually lead to telephone modems. Who would have thought this nondescript little black box would be the first step in a long chain of events that would eventually lead to the breakup of AT&T and the development of the public internet?

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