Mar 22, 2018 - Sale 2470

Sale 2470 - Lot 41

Price Realized: $ 12,500
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Estimate: $ 10,000 - $ 20,000
"I DID FIND A 'BUG' IN MY APPARATUS, BUT IT WAS NOT IN THE TELEPHONE" EDISON, THOMAS A. Autograph Letter Signed, "Thos A Edison," to Western Union President William Orton, explaining that the delay was due to a technical problem ("bug") in the call apparatus of telephones and to the illness of the wife of Adam [Scott?], offering him a phonograph for his home and one for his "experimental room," and inviting him to visit for a phonograph demonstration. 1 page, 4to, ruled paper; short closed separations at folds, docketed verso. Menlo Park, 3 March 1878

Additional Details

". . . I did find a 'bug' in my apparatus, but it was not in the telephone proper. It was of the genus 'callbellum.' The insect appears to find conditions for its existence in all call apparatus of telephones. . . .
"I intend to present you with a first class phonograph for your home, for reproducing music etc. This apparatus will run with a clockwork train. I will also place one in the room called 'experimental room' if you will be so kind as to inform me where that is.
"I wish you could find time some afternoon to come down and see my experimental room (no desks manned with mathematicians) and hear some good phonographic singing and talking."
Edison is among the first to use the word "bug" to refer to a technical problem. The word is used with this meaning in his notebook of July 1876 in the context of experiments on transmitting signals over a wire, and in 1892, Thomas Sloane's definition was published in his Standard Electrical Dictionary: "[a]ny fault or trouble in the connections or working of electric apparatus."
By introducing a telephone design in 1878 which included his new carbon grain microphone, Edison made long distance telephone communication possible. In a series of tests conducted during the spring of 1878, Edison demonstrated that a telephone signal could travel between Menlo Park and Philadelphia.
Published in The Papers of Thomas A. Edison, vol. 4, ed. Paul B. Israel, Baltimore and London, 1993.