Alexander Graham Bell created the telephone through many years of experimentation with sound waves. Bell got the idea from the phonautograph that he had invented prior to draw sound waves, and this inspired him to think that it might be possible to generate electrical current that corresponded with sound waves. Bell thought that if he could cause the electrical current to imitate the sound waves, he would be able to project voices the same way that telegraphs transmitted Morse code over wires.
The early stages of the telephone began as acoustic telegraphy that operated with reeds to imitate the sounds, if not words of speech. At this time, Bell was working with the electrical designer Thomas Watson, enabling him to begin to design some of his ideas. The two men worked on the acoustic telegraphy using the reeds, and made a discovery when Watson accidentally plucked one of the reeds. The sound that was clearly transmitted to Bell showed him that he only needed one reed or item that could vibrate correctly to conduct the sound.
The idea of the phone was patented by Bell in 1876. By 1886, 150,000 people had phones in their homes and the Bell Telephone Company had been established. Bell's ideas and inspiration for the phone came from his work with the deaf and trying to help them understand sound when they were not able to hear it.