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Cyclopedia of Telephony and Telegraphy Vol. 1 A General Reference Work on Telephony, etc. etc.

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Telephony is the art of reproducing at a distant point, usually by the agency of electricity, sounds produced at a sending point. In this art the elements of two general divisions of physical science are concerned, sound and electricity.

Sound is the effect of vibrations of matter upon the ear. The vibrations may be those of air or other matter. Various forms of matter transmit sound vibrations in varying degrees, at different specific speeds, and with different effects upon the vibrations. Any form of matter may serve as a transmitting medium for sound vibrations. Sound itself is an effect of sound vibrations upon the ear.

Propagation of Sound. Since human beings communicate with each other by means of speech and hearing through the air, it is with air that the acoustics of telephony principally is concerned. In air, sound vibrations consist of successive condensations and rarefactions tending to proceed outwardly from the source in all directions. The source is the center of a sphere of sound vibrations. Whatever may be the nature of the sounds or of the medium transmitting them, they consist of waves emitted by the source and observed by the ear. A sound wave is one complete condensation and rarefaction of the transmitting medium. It is produced by one complete vibration of the sound-producing thing.

Sound waves in air travel at a rate of about 1,090 feet per second. The rate of propagation of sound waves in other materials varies with the density of the material. For example, the speed of transmission is much greater in water than in air, and is much less in highly rarefied air than in air at ordinary density. The propagation of sound waves in a vacuum may be said not to take place at all.

Characteristics of Sound. Three qualities distinguish sound: loudness, pitch, and timbre.

Loudness. Loudness depends upon the violence of the effect upon the ear; sounds may be alike in their other qualities and differ in loudness, the louder sounds being produced by the stronger vibrations of the air or other medium at the ear. Other things being equal, the louder sound is produced by the source radiating the greater energy and so producing the greater degree of condensation and rarefaction of the medium.

Pitch. Pitch depends upon the frequency at which the sound waves strike the ear. Pitches are referred to as high or low as the frequency of waves reaching the ear are greater or fewer. Familiar low pitches are the left-hand strings of a piano; the larger ones of stringed instruments generally; bass voices; and large bells. Familiar high pitches are right-hand piano strings; smaller ones of other stringed instruments; soprano voices; small bells; and the voices of most birds and insects.

Doppler's Principle:—As pitch depends upon the frequency at which sound waves strike the ear, an object may emit sound waves at a constant frequency, yet may produce different pitches in ears differently situated. Such a case is not usual, but an example of it will serve a useful purpose in fixing certain facts as to pitch....