Twenty-four years before this article appeared, Edward Bellamy's influential novel Looking Backward looked forward to the day when telephone lines would distribute home entertainment. (The two switchboard photographs at the end of this article had actually been taken three years earlier, at the Wilmington, Delaware Tel-musici operations.)
New York Times, September 15, 1912, page SM12:

Baseball  Scores,  Campaign  Orators,  and  Records  of  Big  Events  and  Grand  Opera,  Sent  from  Central  Office  to  Apartments  Blocks  Away--Turn  on  Switch,  That's  All.
From  " Looking  Backward "--Edward  Bellamy.

" But would you really like to hear some music?"
    I assured her once more that I would.
    "Come, then, into the music room," she said, and I followed her into an apartment finished, without hangings, in wood, with a floor of polished wood. I was prepared for new devices in musical instruments, but I saw nothing in the room which by any stretch of imagination could be conceived as such.   *   *   *
    "Please look at to-day's music," she said, handing me a card, "and tell me what you would prefer. It is now five o'clock, you will remember."
    The card bore the date "September 12, 2000," and contained the longest programme of music I had ever seen. It was as various as it was long, including a most extraordinary range of vocal and instrumental solos, duets, quartettes, and various orchestral combinations.    *   *   *   I observed that this prodigious programme was an all-day one, divided into twenty-four sections answering to the hours. There were but a few pieces of music in the 5 P.M. section, and I indicated an organ piece as my preference.   *   *   *
    She made me sit down comfortably, and, crossing the room, so far as I could see, merely touched one or two screens, and at once the room was filled with the music of a grand organ anthem; filled, not flooded, for, by some means, the volume of melody had been perfectly graduated to the size of the apartment.
    "Grand!" I cried, as the last great wave of sound broke and ebbed away into silence. "Bach must be at the keys of that organ; but where is the organ?"
    "Wait a moment, please," said Edith; "I want to have you listen to this waltz before you ask any questions. I think it is perfectly charming"; and as she spoke the sound of violins filled the room with the witchery of a Summer night. When this had also ceased, she said:
    "There is nothing in the least mysterious about the music, as you seem to imagine. It is not made by fairies or genii, but by good, honest, and exceedingly clever human hands. We have simply carried the idea of labor saving by co-operation into our musical service as into everything else. There are a number of music rooms in the city, perfectly adapted acoustically to the different sorts of music. These halls are connected by telephone with all the houses of the city whose people care to pay the small fee, and there are none, you may be sure, who do not. The corps of musicians attached to each hall is so large that, although no individual performer, or group of performers, has more than a brief part, each day's programme lasts through the twenty-four hours. There are on that card for to-day, as you will see if you observe closely, distinct programmes of four of these concerts, each of a different order of music from the others, being now simultaneously performed, and any one of the four pieces now going on that you prefer, you can hear by merely pressing the button which will connect your house-wire with the hall where it is being rendered. The programmes are so co-ordinated that the pieces at any one time simultaneously proceeding in the different halls usually offer a choice, not only between instrumental and vocal, and between different sorts of instruments; but also between different motives from grave to gay, so that all tastes and moods can be suited.
At Home
HOW do you take to the notion of having a small brass horn, concealed in the draperies of your sitting-room, perform for you the combined services of a box at the opera, seats at the ball game, a season ticket to the symphony orchestra, admittances to the biggest political mass meetings in the city, a general news ticker, and telephonic communication with the four quarters of the earth and the great uncharted spaces of the high seas? Does it strike you as desirable to have the world brought to your ear, with no more effort on your part than the turning of a switch and the drawing up of a comfortable chair?
    Well, a certain Mr. Webb of Baltimore has just perfected an apparatus which he thinks will do all this and more, for you, and he calls it the magnaphone, by means of which he can convey a given sound--be it opera or football scores, or election returns--simultaneously to countless thousands of listeners, either peacefully seated at home or traversing the world at large. It works on the principle of a long-distance phonograph, with the distributing records at an exchange, and as many transmitting horns as you please dotted about on the magnaphone circuits. It is like a telephone, simplified of its innumerable connecting exchanges. The magnaphone works directly and simultaneously. The identical voice which is telling the man in the Bronx the final election news is at that same instant conveying the tidings to a maiden lady in northern Connecticut.
    But, for all its manifold spheres of usefulness, the magnaphone is fairly simple of construction and operation.
    A circuit is laid out and receiving horns are installed wherever there are subscribers for them. There is a central exchange, from which all the musical programmes, the lectures, speeches, news items, &c. are sent out.
    At one of these exchanges there are from ten to twelve small electrical machines, which receive the sound waves from records and voices and measure them oft in corresponding ware lengths of electricity. These, in turn, are reconverted into sound waves at the subscribers' ends.
    Each of these small machines can receive a sufficient volume of sound to supply 100 to 150 subscribers with a plentiful amount, after it has done its particular duty of magnifying the sound waves. In order to prevent a destructive overheating these machines are constantly cooled by streams of cold water, so that there is never any difficulty in obtaining an even and abundant distribution of sound.
    Any kind of sound can be conveyed through these energetic little appliances. A speaker can command through them an infinitely larger audience than could ever assemble within actual reach of his voice. A singer, an orchestra, a large brass band--anything or anybody that can produce a given sound within the walls of the exchange, or reach of the little machine, can be heard instantly through the scattered horns on the circuit. Record Table
    So much for the possibilities of the actual machinery. Its applications to the practical needs of the public are virtually limitless, so long as that public merely wants to hear something, and does not too much miss seeing it.
    For instance, there are exchanges in Baltimore, in Wilmington, and in New York, and there will be others presently, in all the large cities. Eventually there will be no small spot on all the map which will not have its testimony to the truth and reliability of Edward Bellamy's prophetic soul, for the magnaphone has, if nothing else, at least made Mr. Bellamy's " Looking Backward " now a process of " looking on."

Routine  of  the Day.

    All of these exchanges have operators who give to their immediate circuit of subscribers the programme which the previous week's bulletin has promised them. These programmes are carefully itemized and timed, so that if sitting at home, you want to hear " The Ragtime Violin," you turn on your switch at a quarter to 5. If you pine to hear Maud Powell play the Meditation from " Thaïs," you wait and turn your switch at twenty minutes to it. If you taste is catholic, you simply turn your switch at 11 o'clock in the morning, which is the hour for the programme's beginning, and you leave it on for twelve hours, when it stops for the night. Every hour, on the hour, you will get the most important news item of the moment. On the half hour you will hear the " sporting news,"--scores of all the games, for example, and final tallies from all the athletic encounters within reach of telegraph, cable, or wireless. If the President of the United States is making a vitally important speech somewhere, the gist of it is told you. In fact, wherever an orator is distinguishing himself, there will be a magnaphone reporter, busily preparing a condensation of his speech for your delectation.
    One of the happiest ideas connected with these programmes is that at bedtime for youngsters a " sandman story " is sent over the wires. Some effort is made to keep track of the ordinary needs of the day in a busy household, so that the dulcet waltz and the festive turkey trot do not molest your dinner hour, nor the soporific sandman stories arrive in the lull among your guests just after you have dined. The fashions in hats come at the luncheon hour, and the baseball scores are saved for father. Probably soon it can be made to discharge the cook at quarter to 10, and engage the new maid at noon. Of course, it must be borne in mind that at the exact instant when your cook walks out of your door she will meet the one from your neighbor's house, suffering a similar ejection. For, like most inventions for the doing of routine work on a large scale, the magnaphone cannot consult individual preferences. All that it does for you, it is synchronously doing for Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Brown, even to the indulging of your penchant for " Annie Laurie," or hers for " Everybody's Doin' It."
    However, the value of the magnaphone in domestic circles is really not so large as in more public places. In hospitals and institutions for the care of the sick, the destitute, and the insane, this extraordinary invention has found a sphere of the widest usefulness. The Kings Park State Hospital is fully equipped with magnaphone instruments. It has long since been found that any effort to entertain its inmates in a common meeting hall was almost valueless because of their restlessness, inharmony of spirit, and germane causes. But Dr. Macey has found that a magnaphone horn placed in a ward, or a single room, not only provides the best kind of diversion for his patients, but is in many cases of actual curative potency. The surprise of hearing an unexpected melody issuing from an innocent looking little horn has brought any number of patients out of an uncontrolled hysteria.
    It is operated under the direction of the hospital authorities, and is by them turned into any room where its help is needed.
    In public parks and amusement places it has already superseded the occasional orchestra. There are several places on Coney Island where its services are being gratefully acknowledged by a nightly throng of music-starved souls whose purse strings will not stretch to admittances to music halls. It is installed in Asbury Park, and will presently be placed in some of the smaller coast resorts which do not rise to the dignity of public orchestra.
    It is on many of the pleasure boats, giving merely its entertainment programmes and on some others for use in the operation of the boat itself. The Trojan of the Hudson River Line has a complete magnaphone equipment, as has the Van Rensselaer, and the C. W. Morse is now being wired.
    The largest practical demonstration of the uses of the invention in the executive administration of the affairs of a big boat is furnished by the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, which is wired up from crow's nest to the afterhold. Switch Board

Advantage  to  Ocean  Liners.

    The importance of the magnaphone on one of the larger " greyhounds "' cannot be easily overrated. With a transmitter in the crow's-nest, the lookout gives instant warning of any obstacle ahead. His voice rings up and down the officers' bridge from four horns simultaneously, so that, no matter where the officer on watch may be standing, he cannot fail to hear it. The four horns are trained on the little promenade from the four quarters, so that nothing short of a whirlwind can swallow the whole of the warning. Without waiting for relays, doubtful and prolonged at best, this warning reaches the Captain and all the officers who may be needed. Similarly, in case of any accident, the Captain can speak instantly with every passenger on board by means of horns placed in the hallways and saloons. An alarm, or an assurance, can go with unexampled speed and certainty. To be prosaic, they could all be called to dinner, to prayers, or to a concert in the same way, though, of course, it would be a pity to do away with the fat little red-faced trumpeters on the German boats. However, the magnaphone is still in its infancy. The things it has done are in nowise to be compared, for far-reaching consequence, to the things it aspires to do.
    One of its most picturesque, withal useful, ambitions is to wire the great coal mines, so that instant approach can be had with all the miners on all the levels of the mines. This will not be for their entertainment, however. No ragtime rhythms will be sent to syncopate the stroke of shovel and axe. The communications will be confined to routine instructions in time of peace and well-being, and to helpful directions in time of calamity. It will not need a second thought to determine how much it might mean to an immured group of miners to know that release was nearing them rapidly, or that by using some other exit their way out could be hastened.
    Another scheme is to wire up the great skyscrapers, not only after their completion, but during the time they are being built. This is to afford to the workmen the same sort of safely that is to be given to the miners, and to insure a prompt means of getting into communication with all of them at once.
    In short, wherever it is necessary for a single voice of authority or warning to be carried instantly over a tremendous area, there the magnaphone will prove its peculiar industrial value. Opera by Wire

General  Entertainment  Plans.

    Its plans are not all industrial, however. Some at its enterprises in the realm of general entertainment are no less ambitious. Its apparatus is complete for giving a complete theatrical performance from any stage, into your home, providing there is a willingness among the managers of theatres to permit this generosity. It doesn't seem likely. But if Mr. Frohman, for instance, should develop an unexpected spirit of co-operation in the matter, there is nothing to prevent your sitting at home and hearing the whole of his most successful play, exactly as it is being spoken from the stage. The pauses you would have to fill in with your mind's eye, but otherwise nothing would mar your complete enjoyment.
    In the matter of giving opera, the magnaphone is not hampered by lack of permissions from managers, because of the countless records made for the phonograph companies, which, when played from end to end, so to speak, all but give you the complete work. In fact, this is already about to happen. The plans are fairly complete.
    First you are told the story of the opera and a little of what the music is supposed to mean. Then the libretto is read to you, up to the point where the first aria begins. A Tetrazzini record, say, or a Melba record is then put on. At its close the recital of the libretto recommences and carries you along in the next aria, and so on, to the end. It has been found that in this way most of the longer operas can be given in two hours or so, and you can have Caruso, Melba, Sembrich, Tetrazzini, Amato, and Geraldine Farrar, all in the same cast.
    The tour de force of the magnaphone is to give plays and operas with moving picture assistance. This will strike the final blow at the human being as a public entertainer. Nor is it by any means still in the nebula of surmise and anticipation. It is already accomplished, and but waits the proper hour for unfolding before a skeptical populace. Mr. Webb has twenty films which he has fitted up with a magnaphone so that not a word or gesture goes astray. There it all is, for you to see, and to hear, and to believe if you do not scorn the evidence of your eyes and ears.
    Some of these films are of plays, and some of opera, and in the latter the carefully prepared records have interpolations from the greatest singers of the rôles.
    Whether or not this plan meets with adequate reward certainly the present scope of the magnaphone is not to be despised. It does take amusement into any home, in any quantities in which they may be desired, and minimizes world without end the effort of man to entertain himself.
    It gives another piquant detail to the composite picture of the man of the future: in addition to taking his meals in tabloid form from the pockets of his adjustable day-and-night suit of clothes, he will probably have condensed his communication with the outside world into prolonged and enraptured sittings before the mouth of a little brass horn.