Selling the Weird Instrument
The demonstrator, say, has set the “speaking” switch, and you have spoken haphazard words into the transmitter; now the switch goes to “hearing,” and you listen. And the words come forth—not after the “scratchy” manner of the phonograph, not with the side noises so often incidental to the telephone, but clearly, distinctly, with a pure, clear-cut, flowing quality difficult to describe, but astounding to hear! (411)
All of the technical features that Smith imagines are present here, and they are presented in a magazine chiefly aimed at men already studying, working, and investing in the fields of engineering and applied sciences. In other words, “A Spool of Wire Speaks” is an advertisement in text form. Through hypothetical scenarios, it describes the “weird instrument” as it sells it, stressing several opportunities for technological innovation, like permanently recording otherwise ephemeral telephone conversations, easily editing and erasing dictations on the fly, and answering a phone in the absence of a subscriber.