Where voices are powered by the sun (Jan, 1956)

Where voices are powered by the sun

A new kind of telephone system developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories for rural areas is being operated experimentally by electric current derived from sunlight. Electric current is generated as sunlight falls on the Bell Solar Battery, which a lineman is seen adjusting in position.

The exciting achievement is made possible by two Laboratories inventions—the solar battery and the transistor. The new system uses transistors to the complete exclusion of electron tubes.

Transistors require little power and this power can be easily supplied by the solar battery.

Compact and economical, the transistorized system can carry several voices simultaneously without interference. It has proved its ruggedness by standing up to heat, cold, rain and lightning. It promises more and improved telephone service for rural areas and it typifies the Laboratories’ continuing efforts to make American telephony still better each year.


  1. Toronto says: November 29, 20093:37 pm

    That’s quite the array of anti-pigeon spikes on that solar panel.

  2. Bernd says: December 5, 20098:31 am

    …and it is still beyond my comprehension why they would call it a solar “battery”.

  3. Firebrand38 says: December 5, 20093:07 pm

    Bernd: I have no doubt. Maybe because it fits the dictionary definition of “battery” http://www.merriam-webs… as in:
    4 a : a combination of apparatus for producing a single electrical effect b : a group of two or more cells connected together to furnish electric current; also : a single cell that furnishes electric current .

    Boy, you suck at this!

  4. Lana says: October 29, 20103:55 am

    It amazes me that this looks exactly like the solar panels on power lines today. Has technology really not advanced that much? Or was it that power companies were actively promoting the most energy-intensive products, rather than the ones that saved or created energy? Some books about the history of electricity (e.g. Leslie Hannah, 1979) have noted how electric irons were actively promoted due to their high consumption.

  5. Firebrand38 says: October 29, 20107:28 am

    Lana: What should it look like? You’re confusing technology with design. Technology of solar cell efficiency continues to advance http://upload.wikimedia…

    A collection of thin solar cells pointed at the Sun, what should that look like today? Tail fins, or maybe a racing stripe?

    I don’t understand your choices offered of technology not advancing and power companies promoting electrically driven devices? I prefer electric irons myself, those gasoline powered irons always made me nervous. I could always use a flat iron heated on my pot bellied stove (if I had a pot bellied stove).

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