The History of the Doorbell

Written by rebecca mecomber
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The History of the Doorbell
The electric doorbell was invented in the early 1800s. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

The ubiquitous doorbell is the message centre from the outside world to the home. Through it, your friends, the delivery man or neighbourhood prankster announce their presence. Doorbells can be an extension of the home's decor or merely a utilitarian method of broadcasting.

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Precursor

Before the doorbell, there was the door knocker. A visitor would lift an iron or brass knob on the door and strike a metal plate to signify his presence. Later, a small bell was installed inside the home; the visitor would pull the string to ring the bell.

Invention

The electric doorbell is by far the most common doorbell style. Joseph Henry, an American scientist and first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, invented the electric doorbell in 1831.

Function

The electric doorbell is a simple device. When the door button is pushed, electrical current flows to a transformer, which activates a noise signaller. The noise signal may be a buzzer, a bell or a chime. Manufacturers have developed many styles and sounds from which consumers may choose.

Types

The first doorbell was a loud electric buzzer. In the early 1930s, musical chimes with attractive tunes such as "Westminster Quarters" became available. Modern wireless doorbells utilise radio waves to sound the doorbell. The deaf use visual devices such as lights to signify a doorbell alarm.

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