Author Topic: How Telephones Work  (Read 3596 times)

candy

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How Telephones Work
« on: April 01, 2007, 09:43:49 AM »
Although most of us take it completely for granted, the telephone you have in your house is one of the most amazing devices ever created. If you want to talk to someone, all you have to do is pick up the phone and dial a few digits. You are instantly connected to that person, and you can have a two-way conversation. The telephone network extends worldwide, so you can reach nearly anyone on the planet. When you compare that to the state of the world just 100 years ago, when it might have taken several weeks to get a one-way written message to someone, you realize just how amazing the telephone is!

In this article, we will look at the telephone device that you have in your house as well as the telephone network it connects to so you can make and receive calls.

A Simple Telephone
Surprisingly, a telephone is one of the simplest devices you have in your house. It is so simple because the telephone connection to your house has not changed in nearly a century. If you have an antique phone from the 1920s, you could connect it to the wall jack in your house and it would work fine!

The very simplest working telephone would look like this inside



As you can see, it only contains three parts and they are all simple:

A switch to connect and disconnect the phone from the network - This switch is generally called the hook switch. It connects when you lift the handset.
A speaker - This is generally a little 50-cent, 8-ohm speaker of some sort.
A microphone - In the past, telephone microphones have been as simple as carbon granules compressed between two thin metal plates. Sound waves from your voice compress and decompress the granules, changing the resistance of the granules and modulating the current flowing through the microphone.
That's it! You can dial this simple phone by rapidly tapping the hook switch -- all telephone switches still recognize "pulse dialing." If you pick the phone up and rapidly tap the switch hook four times, the phone company's switch will understand that you have dialed a "4."

A Real Telephone
The only problem with the phone shown on the previous page (and directly below) is that when you talk, you will hear your voice through the speaker.

Most people find that annoying, so any "real" phone contains a device called a duplex coil or something functionally equivalent to block the sound of your own voice from reaching your ear. A modern telephone also includes a bell so it can ring and a touch-tone keypad and frequency generator. A "real" phone looks like this:



A "real" telephone 


Still, it's pretty simple. In a modern phone there is an electronic microphone, amplifier and circuit to replace the carbon granules and loading coil. The mechanical bell is often replaced by a speaker and a circuit to generate a pleasant ringing tone. But a regular $6.95 telephone remains one of the simplest devices ever.


Telephones: Wires and Cables
The telephone network starts in your house. A pair of copper wires runs from a box at the road to a box (often called an entrance bridge) at your house. From there, the pair of wires is connected to each phone jack in your house (usually using red and green wires). If your house has two phone lines, then two separate pairs of copper wires run from the road to your house. The second pair is usually colored yellow and black inside your house. (See What do the little boxes that the phone company has around our neighborhood do? for a description of the telephone boxes and wires that you see by the road.)


A typical phone company box that you see by the side of the road.

Along the road runs a thick cable packed with 100 or more copper pairs. Depending on where you are located, this thick cable will run directly to the phone company's switch in your area or it will run to a box about the size of a refrigerator that acts as a digital concentrator.

Telephones: Digitizing and Delivering
The concentrator digitizes your voice at a sample rate of 8,000 samples per second and 8-bit resolution (see How Analog and Digital Recording Works for information on digitizing sounds). It then combines your voice with dozens of others and sends them all down a single wire (usually a coax cable or a fiber-optic cable) to the phone company office. Either way, your line connects into a line card at the switch so you can hear the dial tone when you pick up your phone.

If you are calling someone connected to the same office, then the switch simply creates a loop between your phone and the phone of the person you called. If it's a long-distance call, then your voice is digitized and combined with millions of other voices on the long-distance network. Your voice normally travels over a fiber-optic line to the office of the receiving party, but it may also be transmitted by satellite or by microwave towers.

Creating Your Own Telephone Network
Not only is a telephone a simple device, but the connection between you and the phone company is even simpler. In fact, you can easily create your own intercom system using two telephones, a 9-volt battery (or some other simple power supply) and a 300-ohm resistor that you can get for a dollar at Radio Shack. You can wire it up like this.



Your connection to the phone company consists of two copper wires. Usually they are red and green. The green wire is common, and the red wire supplies your phone with 6 to 12 volts DC at about 30 milliamps. If you think about a simple carbon granule microphone, all it is doing is modulating that current (letting more or less current through depending on how the sound waves compress and relax the granules), and the speaker at the other end "plays" that modulated signal. That's all there is to it!

The easiest way to wire up a private intercom like this is to go to a hardware or discount store and buy a 100-foot phone cord. Cut it, strip the wires and hook in the battery and resistor as shown. (Most cheap phone cords contain only two wires, but if the one you buy happens to have four, then use the center two.) When two people pick up the phones together, they can talk to each other just fine. This sort of arrangement will work at distances of up to several miles apart.

The only thing your little intercom cannot do is ring the phone to tell the person at the other end to pick up. The "ring" signal is a 90-volt AC wave at 20 hertz (Hz).





 
 



 

 

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How Telephones Work
« on: April 01, 2007, 09:43:49 AM »

tsophia

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Re: How Telephones Work
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2008, 04:36:48 AM »
It was one of those moments when the world changes forever. On March 10, 1876, Thomas Watson was staring at a strange piece of mechanical apparatus when he heard it speak the words that made history: "Mr Watson! Come here! I want to see you!" Those three short exclamations mark the moment when the telephone properly came into being, thanks to Watson's brilliant colleague Alexander Graham Bell (18471922). Since that moment, a little over a century ago, the telephone has become one of the most commonplace inventions in the world. Apart from handling voice calls, it helps us send documents by fax and it's also the basic infrastructure on which the Internet is built.

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