Whether we’re posting to Instagram or playing Bejeweled, we use our phones for a lot more than making calls. Yet from 1876—when Alexander Graham Bell invented the device—until the rise of smartphones in the early 2000’s, phones were primarily for talking. Full story:
  1. Can You Hear Me?
    Alexander Graham Bell, the founding president of National Geographic Society, performs the first long-distance phone call in 1877. (Photo by Bell Collection)
  2. Hello Mother, Hello Father!
    A brother and sister in San Francisco, California call their parents, who are across the country, in this 1916 National Geographic photo. (Photo by L.W. Harris)
  3. Taking a Break
    In this 1949 National Geographic photo, a switchboard operator steps outside a telephone office in Andorra. (Photo by B. Anthony Stewart, National Geographic)
  4. Before FaceTime
    First Lady Lady Bird Johnson (right) talks to Dr. Elizabeth A. Wood on the newly invented Picturephone in this 1964 National Geographic photo. The phone debuted to the public at that year’s World’s Fair in New York. (Photo by Bruce Dale, National Geographic)
  5. Before Cell Phones
    A woman uses a payphone on the streets of Crimea, Ukraine in this 1993 National Geographic photo. (Photo by Ed Kashi, National Geographic)
  6. Waiting on the Line
    People living within the Northern Cemetery in Cairo, Egypt gossip beside a disconnected phone. (Photo by Reza, National Geographic)
  7. Calling a Deer Friend
    A mechanic talks on the phone inside a gas station in Cave City, Arkansas. This photo appeared in a 1998 National Geographic article about the Ozark Mountains. (Photo by Randy Olson, National Geographic)
  8. Multi-tasking
    A woman chats on the phone while receiving a massage in her apartment in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Tomasz Tomaszewski, National Geographic)
  9. On the Go
    A man checks his phone outside an American chain coffee shop in Xintiandi, a car-free shopping district in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Randy Olson, National Geographic)
  10. Selfie Smooch
    A couple takes a selfie while kissing in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Jodi Cobb, National Geographic)
  11. High School Nights
    A teen texts on her way to a party in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Kitra Cahana, National Geographic)
  12. Breaking Character
    A tourist wearing an elaborate Carnival costume uses a cellphone in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Jodi Cobb, National Geographic)