100 years before mobile, Parisians used phone for music

London: If you think enjoying music on your mobile phone is a modern phenomenon, think again – people were doing the same more than a century ago, scientists say.

A device called the Theatrophone, which allowed users to call a theatre and have live music relayed to them, was in use in France by 1980s, the Daily Mail reported, citing a 1892-article by `Scientific American Supplement`.

Subscribers, according to the report, were receiving the service in their homes, but theatrophones were set up for enthusiasts to use in hotels, restaurants, vestibules, and cafes throughout the city.

Fifty centimes bought five minutes of music. A placard on the front of the machine indicated which theatre was providing the soundtrack.

The Theatrophone Company would operate from a central venue, which was connected to several secondary stations at other venues.

A series of microphones set up on stage at the music halls transmitted sound back to the central station," the report said.

It said: "The theatrophone had three cables, two for transmitting music and the other for an alarm set for five minutes to keep track of the listener?s allotted time.

"If a listener happened to call a theatre as a live performance was ending or during an intermission, he or she would be connected to another location for the remainder of time he or she had paid for.

"If none of the theatres was transmitting sound the listener would hear recorded piano music."

The alarm was operated by a crank, seen to the right of the operator.

There was also a stop mechanism within the alarm so that each revolution of the crank caused the ratchet wheel supporting the disk of names to advance one tooth at a time.

At the time the article was published, 100 Theatrophones were installed in the French capital, using 11 lines, and a number of private subscribers who paid a fixed amount to listen at home, the report added.