The rush to create television was started by a rumor.

In 1880 Alexander Graham Bell, the famed inventor of the telephone, sealed documents related to his latest invention and gave them to the Smithsonian Institution. When word got out that his mystery invention was called the “Photophone,” many people assumed that Bell had figured out how to mechanically send pictures from one point to another. Many had no doubt gotten the idea that such an invention was in the works after seeing illustrations of the the fictional “telephonoscope” in the December 9, 1878 issue of Punch magazine.

Word quickly spread and inventors rushed to guess at what futuristic technology would allow for sending pictures over a distance. People all over the world flooded the pages of magazines like Scientific American and English Mechanic, trying to guess in articles and letters to the editor just how Bell’s “Photophone” worked.

In fact, some people were angry that Bell was hiding his invention, speculating what a tremendous innovation could do for humankind. The London publication Brief: The Week’s News ran a short piece that didn’t even mention Bell by name, instead calling him the “inventor of the telephone” and protesting that Bell wouldn’t share his marvelous invention with the world.