Back in 1949, Bell Telephone Laboratories engineer Winston E. Kock imagined a "little black box you never have to touch – just talk and listen to." He developed lenses that direct incoming sound toward the user and away from the transmitter, making clunky handsets obsolete:
You can understand why lenses are necessary if you've ever held an old-fashioned telephone receiver near the transmitter. The transmitter picks up the receiver's sound, which keeps going around the circuit until it is a howl.
Kock's vision of the future didn't stop at touch-free phones. His work on artificial dielectrics preceded metamaterials by half a century, and he patented an electronic organ in 1938. He went on to become the first director of NASA's Electronics Research Center.
Read the full story in our October 1949 issue: Lenses Promise No-Hands Phone.