Q. You’ve written a great deal on telephones, especially telephone history. Why is that?
A. The story of the telephone is the story of invention. And the story of invention is the story of America.
Q. A bold statement.
A. But very true. Curiosity, persistence, and ingenuity — these are all traits of American pioneers and inventors. Invention is in our very nature. I find technology fascinating for its own sake, but then things become so much more than the device itself: an entire story develops around the invention.
Q. Like what?
A. Alexander Graham Bell was absolutely consumed with the telephone. He had to figure out how to make one. He and Watson worked in a poorly lit attic that was a hovel; a firetrap they were lucky to have survived. Steve Jobs and Wozniak worked out of a garage. In both cases they came up with a wonderful product, after a while, but in the beginning they had to struggle with little or no money, endless weeks and months of no sleep, wary investors, patent questions, and powerful forces as competition. With Bell and Watson it was the Western Union Company. With Jobs and Wozniak it would be IBM and Microsoft. It’s not enough to invent something. To make your invention succeed, you yourself must succeed. All very American. All good stories.