Alexander Graham Bell might be surprised by how much his invention has changed since that first telephone call to Mr. Watson. Lucky for him, he could track his machine's evolution at the Oklahoma Museum of Telephone History, 111 Dean A. McGee.
Tracing the advances in technology that have carried the industry from Bell's early experiments to today's fiber optics and wireless communications, the museum tells the story of how the telecommunications industry has connected Oklahomans to each other and the world.
Numerous interactive gadgets help visitors understand how the human voice travels down the wires and across the airwaves, and how the complex system of switches and routers recognize the numbers we dial.
Old-fashioned switchboards, from the days when callers spoke with an operator before every call, are set up to display the manual process required during the industry's infancy.
Establishing and maintaining an interconnected system of communications lines is an integral part of the telephone grid, and the museum displays an array of the tools and equipment needed to keep the system in working order. There's even a telephone pole " complete with lines, insulators and a big, black crow " that towers above the other exhibits.
Stocked with receivers of every shape and size, the site sports a collection going back to early models from the 1890s, as well as novelty phones featuring icons like Mickey Mouse, Snoopy and Coca-Cola.
The mobile phone exhibit dials up the differences between the burdensome, expensive briefcase phones of the 1980s and the inescapable, supercomputer phones in virtually everyone's pocket or purse today. Battlefield communications are also included, with examples of military field phones used by American troops in World War I, World War II and Vietnam.
The museum is staffed by retired telephone company employees. Curator George Gibson, who started in the industry in 1955, traces his family's telephone linage back to just after statehood. The docents' firsthand knowledge and personal anecdotes bring the exhibits to life.
The Oklahoma Museum of Telephone History is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Admission is free. For more information, call 236-6153.
Price writes online at www.travelblur.com.