Today is an interesting anniversary for those of us doing virtual meetings, parties and play dates: the anniversary of the first transcontinental conference call.


It started in 1915, at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco, but the planning had begun in 1909.

At that point there wasn’t a way to send a phone signal over all that distance with enough amplification to be heard, and even if there had been, there wasn’t a network of phone lines that stretched from one side of the United States to the other.

It only went as far west as Denver.

So American Telephone and Telegraph, aka AT&T, put up thousands of new poles to hold the four copper wires.

It took until 1914 to finish, and fortunately by then engineers like Lee De Forest had invented the vacuum tube technology that could amplify those very long distance phone signals.

On January 25, 1915 the call began with two special guests: in New York, Alexander Graham Bell himself was on the line, and in San Francisco, his former lab partner Thomas Watson.

Bell said the same words he’d used in the very first phone call 39 years before: “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.”

This time, Watson replied: “Sorry Mr. Bell, it will take me a week now.”

(It would’ve been very 2021 if he’d said “I think you’re all still muted.”)

The mayors of New York and San Francisco exchanged greetings, as did the president of AT&T and President Woodrow Wilson.

And as the exhibition continued, people could drop by and listen to the phone connection with the East Coast, though anyone in California who wanted to call New York had to wait a bit longer.

All that wire strung over all those miles could handle just one call at a time.


They say honesty is the best policy, but when you’re a restaurateur you can overdo it.

Feigang Fei, who owns Aunt Dai restaurant in Montreal, has a menu that weighs the pros and cons of each dish.

Some dishes have lots of flavor, but others, Fei writes, are “too dry” or “not THAT good.”

Why? He told the CBC he didn’t want to overpromise and underdeliver.

Instead, the restaurant will do its best and hopefully customers will like it.

This 1915 conference call made history (Computer World)

Flashback 1914: Transcontinental Phone Line Finished (Sound & Vision)

‘We are simply not the best,’ Montreal restaurateur says of his very honest menu (As It Happens)

Our Patreon backers really are the best

Photo: Telephone Switchboard Operators, 1900, Salem, Massachusetts. (Salem State Archives via Flickr/Creative Commons)