The doorbell as we know it today is now capable of having its electronic sound projected to all areas of our home or business. We can now see the image of who is pressing it, perhaps straightening their hair, as they are beamed in real-time directly onto the screen of our PC monitor, TV set, or mobile device. Previously, finding out someone was standing at our front door would be via a doorknocker whose sound would reverberate around the whole building, as it was a heavy lump of cast iron or later brass. You could still not fail to hear it.
Door Knockers and Servant Bells
The custom of knocking on doors can be attributed to the Greeks. It was the Romans, however, who spread the use of door knockers, which remained as a heavy ring until about the 15th century, when blacksmiths came up with more elaborate designs. A popular design seems to be that of the lion. As a symbol of Great Britain, signifying strength, power, pride, and protection, the lion head on a doorknocker acts as the guardian to a home.
In 1744, systems of internal bells were invented which allowed masters and mistresses to communicate effectively with their domestic staff. Before this invention, servants could only wait outside their employer’s rooms for orders. This new system improved privacy by meaning that servants could wait in their own quarters for instructions and have no cause to venture around a house when not required. The early non-electric systems consisted of a piece of tapestry covered by a copper wire which then attached to a brass loop containing a sprung bell mechanism, which when pulled, rung out. Later, electric bell pushes would be used to summon butlers and other staff.
Wired and Wireless Doorbells and Projected Peephole Images
It was in 1831 that the first electronic version of a doorbell was invented by American scientist Joseph Henry, who would later become the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The early 1900s would then see the expensive batteries that they required replaced by transformers that used the household current. As an extension to this, although not in terms of wiring, a wireless doorbell would later be invented. Then, a video doorbell by Jamie Siminoff. The advantage of wireless doorbell technology is that a box can be fitted to produce the sound anywhere in the building. In fact, several places, subject to a certain wireless range, which can often exceed 300 feet or more. Musical tones then became available, which could be changed to a more unique or pleasant tone than its default factory setting. The technology of the video doorbell, and being able to view the person calling, simply evolved from the image one could previously observe through a peephole, except it would now be projected onto a separate screen inside in real-time. Like the peephole, it would be the actual image of the person. Interestingly, peepholes, because they were installed with a fisheye lens, were one-directional so that the caller could not see the homeowner observing them. Not to digress, though, this now leads us on to an app that can show you on your mobile phone who is at your door when you can be miles away.
Apps on PCs and Mobile Devices
An app now exists that lets homeowners know who it is standing at their front door. The app, named iDoorCam, operates by way of a tiny camera that is mounted to a doorbell-like button. It will also work when nobody is at home. This is invaluable as a security device, avoiding the need to answer the exterior door to undesirables such as unwanted salesmen, uninvited neighbors, or religious types. Conversely, if it is someone delivering a parcel for you then it is useful to know that you will need to answer the door promptly before they put their calling card through the letterbox, and then drive off at speed.
In summary, there have been a great many technological advancements made with doorbell technology. In an area that could quite easily have been continued to be served by the simplest of technology which just alerts us to the fact that someone is at the door, and through a peephole, who it is so that we can take the chain off the door. Instead, as with all areas of invention, computer technology now plays its part. The image of the person at the door, beamed onto a mobile phone or PC device, becomes our aid to seeing if the person at the front, or back door, is worthy of us even answering it.