Today, microphones are found almost everywhere; from professional microphones in the radio studio to tiny microphones built into cell phones that users could carry easily to everywhere. Studies show that this important and highly practical invention has achieved a relatively huge evolution since its primary prototype designing to the present day, and has considerable technical maturity. Even in terms of application, microphones have had faced many compared to the primary applications.
Todays, Microphones have a significant role in the music and entertainment industries, while the discussion of amplifying sound like the goal of its first invention and development has diminished somewhat.
Similar to evolutions in microphone design and construction in view of its revolutionized sound transmission and amplification, which had hugely affected the entertainment and music industry, the story of this invention is interesting and distinctive; On one hand, there are several inventors who invented sound transmission equipment and technologies and their efforts have emerged the development of this device, and on the other hand, the names of some of the most famous inventors are involved in intellectual property claims.
A microphone is a device for converting acoustic power into electric power with essentially similar wave characteristics. These devices convert sound waves into electrical voltages that are subsequently converted back into sound waves and amplified through speakers
In contrast to many people's beliefs, the invention of the microphone matched with other great inventions such as electricity, light bulbs, and the new communication industry, but the idea of building a device for amplifying and transmitting sound dates back to the mid-seventeenth century when there was no light bulb or commutation devices! During that time, Robert Hooke, an English physicist, and inventor used an acoustic enclosure and a telephone-like communication device to test his mental ideas. This effort can be considered the first innovation for the development of the microphone, even though the word "microphone" is not yet used!
The first person to use the word "microphone" was Charles Wheatstone, a famous English physicist, and inventor best known for his invention of the telegraph. Wittstone's technical interests were very diverse. In the 1820s, he sought further study in the field of sound and acoustics. He was one of the first researchers to discover that sound can be transmitted through waves in the environment. Wittstone's main innovation in this area was a device for amplifying weaker sounds during the transfer from one place to another, which he developed in 1827 and named the microphone.
Then, in 1861, a German inventor named Johann Philipp Reis designed a device to convert sound into electrical signals that were converted back into sound after being transmitted to a similar device via conductive wires. This device can be considered the first real and successful microphone in a way similar to today's microphones: "a converter that converts mechanical energy (sound waves) into electrical energy (sound signals)."
Although Johann Reiss's invention can be considered the first microphone and telephone in history, other people are often referred to in historical documents as the inventors of the telephone and microphone. Perhaps inventing such a device was much earlier than when it can be used efficiently and that is why there is uncertainty about who invented this device first. In any case, the invention of the telephone was known under the name of Alexander Graham Bell, and the microphone was met with famous applicants such as Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Emile Berliner!
Regardless of who we call the original inventor of the microphone, the role of Johann Rees in the development of this invention is undeniable. Thomas Edison is said to have obtained a translated text explaining the internal function of Rees’s the telephone, which further became instrumental in the invention of Emile Berliner's internal microphone.
The 1870s decade can be considered the most important period of microphone development and a turning point in the innovations related to this invention. At first, as part of Graham Bell's telephone, the liquid transformer (blue microphone) was born. The invention, commonly attributed to Graham Bell and Elisha Gray, and there are even rumors that it was stolen by Graham Bell which was developed in 1876. Exactly the same year, Thomas Edison and Emile Berliner worked together to produce the Carbon Microphone as the first fully realistic and operational prototype.
Along with the two inventors promoting the idea in the United States, in Britain, David Edward Hughes was developing a similar idea. Although a joint research project was ongoing between Edison and Berliner, some people know the Berliner as the inventor and others believe Edison was the inventor of the microphone.
On the other hand, Edward Hughes, due to his lack of patent, practically left the ball to American competitors. It is said that David Hughes used the word microphone with the intent to pay respect to Charles Wittstone from England. He also offers his invention as a gift to the world and therefore did not pursue his patent in Britain.
The story of Berliner and Edison's innovative microphone patent is also very readable; In June 1877, Emile Berliner filed his application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In 1878, Graham Bell, who was very absorbed in Berliner's invention, bought a patent for his carbon microphone for $ 50,000 (currently $ 1.1 million) to improve his phone's performance.
Following this case, while Thomas Edison considered himself the rightful owner of the invention and the original owner of the proceeds, a controversial lawsuit arose. Finally, in 1892, a court ruled in favor of Thomas Edison, and Edison was introduced as the main developer of the microphone.
Before the advent of vacuum tube technology and its widespread use in the 1920s, the carbon microphone was the only practical way to generate powerful audio signals, and in this sense was a very valuable and commercial technology. Obviously, this lawsuit changed all the equations of the leading technologists of the time, including Thomas Edison and Graham Bell. It is worth mentioning that Berliner had extensive activities in the field of microphones, which he registered in the patent system, seeking to protect these achievements. Patent certificates numbered "US 463569", "US 224573" and "US 225790" are examples of this.
It should be noted that besides this exciting development, in the 1870s, some side ideas, including a moveable microphone, were introduced by Ernst Werner von Siemens. This Patented in Germany in 1877, he did not gain much popularity amid the efforts of Berliner, Edison, and Graham Bell.
Over the past century, a series of innovative developments in the field of microphones have taken shape. Technological advances, especially in the field of transformers, vacuum tubes, and transistors, have speeded up the development of microphone technology and made a wide range of different products available to those interested. However, the idea of the carbon microphone of Emil Berliner and Thomas Edison is still the most important innovation and known as the basis of current microphones.