Are gadgets killing the internet?

In the early 1920s, when there were still plenty of people in the western world for whom making a telephone call would have sparked a frisson of awe, an American company began marketing something called the Hush-A-Phone. It was a black plastic funnel, designed to be attached to a telephone receiver, shielding the speaker’s mouth “so others cannot hear confidential matters”. It didn’t take off at first, but by 1948, the Hush-A-Phone was doing well — which was when AT&T, the operator of the US phone system, decided enough was enough. At the time, AT&T owned not just the network but also every telephone connected to it, and it had the right, it claimed, to ban “unauthorised foreign attachments”.

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