The Wizard of Oz invented the cellphone
Who invented the cellphone?
Was it Martin Cooper in the 1970s?
Or, perhaps, was it Oscar Diggs in the 1910s?
Never heard of Oscar Diggs?
Oh, but you have…he is better known as the Wizard of Oz.
In L. Frank Baum’s 1914 eighth book in the Oz series, Tik-Tok of Oz (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), we encounter this remarkable scene (mild spoiler alert).
Ozma, the ruler of Oz, has a magic picture which enables her to see anything happening in the world (although she has to direct the picture to show her something).
Previously, one limitation was that the picture had no sound. Dorothy had to make a hand gesture at a certain time of day (which Ozma could see) in order to communicate.
At this point in the series, Oscar Diggs is essentially part of Ozma’s cabinet. He has learned some real magic, but also dabbles in technology.
The Shaggy Man is a prototypical hippie, with an easy-going philosophy, a disdain for the establishment, and a life built around love…or, a love magnet, at any rate.
Shaggy would be right at home on many tech campuses.
When some magic happens, Shaggy realizes it must be the intervention of Ozma:
“…Shaggy suspected the truth, and believing that Ozma was now taking an interest in the party he drew from his pocket a tiny instrument which he placed against his ear.
Ozma, observing this action in her Magic Picture, at once caught up a similar instrument from a table beside her and held it to her own ear. The two instruments recorded the same delicate vibrations of sound and formed a wireless telephone, an invention of the Wizard. Those separated by any distance were thus enabled to converse together with perfect ease and without any wire connection.
“Do you hear me, Shaggy Man?” asked Ozma.
“Yes, Your Highness,” he replied.”
At the end of the conversation, Ozma puts her phone down, and Shaggy “…replaced the wireless telephone in his pocket”.
So, while you may have heard in the past that the Star Trek communicator inspired the cellphone, here was a clearcut description of one the way we use them now…more than half a century earlier.
* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.