in out of context |

A haunted apparatus

“The telephone, it turns out, owes its invention to more than simply hearing-aid experiments. Alexander Bell, who grew up playing with mechanical speech devices (his father ran a school for deaf children), lost a brother in adolescence. As a result of this, he made a pact with his remaining brother: if a second one of them should die, the survivor would try to invent a device capable of receiving transmissions from beyond the grave ā€“ if such transmissions turned out to exist. Then the second brother did die; and Alexander, of course, invented the telephone. He probably would have invented it anyway, and in fact remained a sceptic and a rationalist throughout his life ā€“ but only because his brothers never called: the desire was there, wired right into the handset, which makes the phone itself a haunted apparatus.”

Technology and the novel, from Blake to Ballard
Tom McCarthy
The Guardian, Saturday 24 July 2010

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