The first commercial cell phones didn’t hit the market until the early 1980s, but an Irish filmmaker says he’s spotted one in footage from a vintage Charlie Chaplin film… from 1928.

Perplexed by the appearance of the modern device in the very dated film, George Clarke took his discovery a step further, suggesting in a YouTube video that the cell phone-toting futurist is a “time traveler.”

The YouTube video Clarke posted last week, featuring a few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from the Chaplin film “The Circus,” has since become has become the latest viral sensation to sweep the Web, with more than 1.4 million views.



Apparently the device which looks like a cell phone is (could be) actually the “Western Electric Model 34A “Audiphone” Carbon Hearing Aid.”


The Western Electric 34A carbon hearing aid was manufactured by the Western Electric Company in 1925. Western Electric marketed these early hearing aids under the “Audiphone” trade name.

It was one of the few 1-piece carbon hearing aids of the time. The unit measured 7¾” by 4″ by 1½” and weighed just under 2 lbs. when fitted with batteries.

The Audiphone consists of a carbon microphone (top left) inside a metal case also holding three “D” size 1½ volt batteries (bottom half of case).

The Audiphone used a Western Electric 390-A carbon microphone. This microphone was different from other hearing aid microphones of the day in that carbon granules were used rather than the carbon block and carbon balls.


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