In 1959, AT&T Discovered There Was a Market for a Lady’s Phone

The Princess phone was pitched as the perfect extension for the bedroom

6 min read
photo of pink princess phone
Pretty in Pink: The Princess was marketed to “the homemaker with an eye to the niceties of interior décor.”
Photo: AT&T Archives and History Center

When a company monopolizes an industry, as the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. did with telecommunications in the United States for much of the 20th century, there’s little incentive for flashy design. Engineers at Bell Telephone Laboratories designed phones that were functional and durable, and Western Electric Co. manufactured the phones and supplied them to the local operating companies of the Bell System.

What wouldn’t have been obvious to the average user was the innovation that went into even the blandest looking phone. In 1927, for example, Bell Labs researchers took thousands of head measurements of men and women of different races in order to optimize the design of the telephone handset. The new data were used to establish the ideal length of the handset, the angles of the handset’s earpiece and microphone, and the distance between the handset and the user’s face.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Stay ahead of the latest trends in technology. Become an IEEE member.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Tony Fadell: The Nest Thermostat Disrupted My Life

The Nest founder tells of years in pursuit of a thermostat he actually likes

7 min read
A man holds a circular device in front of a blue wall that says nest on it.

Tony Fadell shows off the Nest thermostat in 2012.

Karsten Lemm/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

The thermostat chased me for 10 years.

That is pretty extreme, by the way. If you’ve got an idea for a business or a new product, you usually don’t have to wait a decade to make sure it’s worth doing.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}