– Sir William Preece, 1878.
Drink in these words, and you can be forgiven for thinking the speaker was some stubborn, stuck-in-the-1700s throwback, fearful of emerging technology and pompous enough to believe Brit messenger boys were all that and a plate of chips (with vinegar).
But William Henry Preece wasn’t uppity, nor was he a troglodyte. In his 79 years, Preece was an electrical engineer, an inventor, an undersea telegraph cable repairman, a Morse code pioneer, the Chief Engineer of the British Post Office, and one of the earliest backers of a young Italian by the name of Guglielmo Marconi – he of the Nobel Prize and the “father of radio” designation. Preece was no ostrich – he sought to solve long-standing problems, often using new concepts and ideas to do just that.
Moreover, Preece was actually a strong believer in the telephone, even demonstrating one of Alexander Graham Bell’s creations to a hoity-toity group of British scientists in the late 1800s.
So why the quote? Despite his keen interest in technology and long-distance communications, Preece simply didn’t feel the need for a future phone of his own.
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