The first cordless phones were actually created in 1965, but it could be said that the technology might have been developed earlier if the laws in the US were different. At that time, the phone companies owned many of the phone lines and most of them were owned by AT&T. If a home had a telephone, it wasn’t purchased at the store. It was instead leased to the customer by AT&T, much like DVR boxes are leased by cable companies today. There was no way to couple a cordless phone to the existing network. It was against the law.
Jazz musician Teri Pall invented a phone that we might call more of a walkie-talkie today. This type of technology had been around for more than a couple decades, but Pall’s invention of the cordless phone had two specific drawbacks. It only had an initial range of two miles and the signals would interfere with aircraft. Pall sold her rights to the phone because she didn’t have the resources to further develop it.
The First Patent For a Wireless Phone Came in 1966
A man named George Sweigert submitted the first patent for a wireless phone in 1966. In his vision, cordless phones would be similar to what military personnel had used during World War II. There was a reason why his vision of cordless phones took this route: he had been a radio operator during the war and understood the need for duplex communication.
It was actually Sweigert’s work that helped to free up the monopoly that existed on the telephone lines. He was one of the largest proponents of allowing consumer equipment to connect to the lines and he wanted the ability to connect a two-way radio with a telephone through those lines for faster, cheaper communication. His work culminated in the Carterfone decision of 1968 that reversed the exclusive rights.
The First Modern Cordless Phones Were Patented in 1977
Doug Talley and Duane Gregory were granted a patent in 1977 for what we’d consider to be the modern cordless phone. With a signal that originates from a base station, the feed is directly connected to the telephone in their invention thanks to a transmitter, receiver, and a series of control circuits. This allows for ring signals to occur whether the phone is on the base station or not and a clear vocal signal when speaking through the phone.
The cordless technology essentially works like you’re typical two-way radio. For US consumers, their cordless phones are allowed to operate on 1 of 7 different frequency bands. What is unique about the early cordless phones is that their bands were just about the AM radio bands and now, thanks to expanded AM radio, these phones can be used as a local radio station that can be heard up to ½ mile away.
Thanks to the invention of the cordless phone, it has become even easier to communicate while still using landlines. That makes for a viable solution that many homes still use today.