start with let me ask you a couple of questions:
- Do you use the telephone?
- Do you know how to say in Hungarian
- I hear you!?
The answer to the first question is almost certain to be „
yes ”.But what about the second question?I’ll tell you
the answer right away it’s the word „hallom”.
Yes this word without the letter „m” is the word we
use every time we speak into a telephone receiver. How did this
Hungarian word become part of the world’s vocabulary? For
the answer we will need to take a brief look at the eventful life
the Hungarian inventor Tivadar Puskás
He was born in Pest on September 17th 1844. His family was part
of the Transylvanian nobility. Puskás studied law and later technical
subjects. After living in England and working for the Warnin Railway
Construction Company he returned to Hungary. In 1873 infected with
the age’s passion for travel on the occasion of the World
Exhibition in Vienna he founded the Puskás Travel Agency –
only the fourth in the world and the first travel agency to be established
in Eastern Europe.
After this he tried his fortune in America. In Colorado he opened
up a mine and began to dig for gold. It was while he was in America
that Puskás exposed the American inventor Keley as a fraud who with
his so-called „energy machine” swindled crowds of qullible
spectators. Puskás in addition to being an entrepreneur was an inventor
of genius and was continually puzzling over technical problems.
He was working on his idea for a telegraph exchange when Alexander
Graham Bell invented the telephone. This led him to take a fresh
look at his work and he decided to get in touch with the great American
inventor Thomas Edison.
Puskás now began to concentrate on perfecting his scheme to build
a telephone exchange. According to Edison „Tivadar Puskás
was the first person to suggest the idea of a telephone exchange”
Puskás’s idea finally became a reality in 1877 in Boston.
It was then that the word „ hallom „ which later became
the word „hallo / hello” so familiar to us all was used
for the first time in a telephone conversation when on hearing the
voice of the person at the other end of the line an exultant Puskás
shouted out in Hungarian „hallom” „I hear you.”
In 1879 he set up a telephone exchange in Paris where he looked
after Thomas Edison’s European affairs for the next four years.
In Paris he was greatly helped by his younger brother Ferenc Puskás
(1848–1884) who established the first telephone exchange in
In 1887 Tivadar Puskás introduced the multiplex switchboard which
was a revolutionary step in the development of telephone exchanges.
His next invention was the Telephone News Service he began in Pest
which announced news and „broadcast” programmes and
was in many ways the forerunner of the radio. According to a contemporary
scientific journal at the most 50 people could listen to Edison’s
telephone at the some time but if a 51st person was connected up
none of the subscribers could hear anything. With Puskás’s
apparatus by contrast half a milion people could clearly hear the
programme coming from exchange.
In 1890 Puskás took out a patent for a procedure for carryng out
controlled explosions which was the forerunner of modern techniques.
He experimented with this procedure when he was working on regulating
the Lower Danube.
Despite his many brilliant inventions including his telephone news
service which was in use a full 30 years before the advent of radio.
Tivadar Puskás did not achieve the enormous success that he might
have. This was partly a result of his early death in 1893 before
he had reached the age of fifty and partly a result of his character
– he was an inventor who worked through inspiration and his
flights of fancy did not suit the hard-headed men of business.
Like many other Hungarian scientists and inventors who came before
and after him Tivadar Puskás’s name slipped into oblivion
instead of receiving the fame and recognition that were his due.