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Tivadar Puskás

To 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 of
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 Pest.

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.



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