What is the first electronic device in the world?

Electronics is one of the greatest technologies in the world. It has changed humanity from poorness to an elegant life. In other words, you wouldn’t read this post without electronics. Or even we could not answer your question about what is the first electronic device in the world? without using electronics.

Electronics is a branch that opened the world and made it like a small town. Daily you have a small device of Sabon size that allows you to be anywhere in the world. And in just a few seconds.

In addition, Electronics became the power of ruling the world. The more advanced electronic technology you have to more power you get. Wars become purely electronics devices that could destroy the world in just a few clicks.

In this article, we dig deeper into the history of the first electronic device in the world. And how it evolved with time. Then we will discover its nature and knowledge. And know if this device is still used today?.

What is the first electronic device in the world?

The first electronic device in the world was a “relay“. It is a kind of electromagnetic device that works as a switch. Instead of using our fingers to close the switch. We use the electricity to close the switch. The device is in the image below.

What is the first electronic device in world


Firstly the relay was designed by German physician Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring in 1809. The relay was as part of his electrochemical telegraph.

In 1835 the relay was invented by North American pioneer Joseph Henry in the university of new jersey.


john Henry the founder of the first electronic device in the world

Henry used a small electromagnet. Then, he prevent that relays could be used to control electrical machines over very long distances.

Henry applied the idea of another invention. He was working at this time on the electrical telegraph (the electrical telegraph was the technology used before the birth of phones). But he finished the idea. Until coming to their friend Samuel morse. Who continued the work and used relays to make powerful telegraphs.


image of telegraph in 19 century

the timeline of the first electronic device in the world

relay in 1832-1835

Henry had a friend called Samuel Finley Breese Morse. He was also an inventor and painter. After the discovery of the relay by Herny. He realize that it would be a good opportunity to take advantage of this device and break his challenge.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse user of the first device in the world

 The idea was to enhance the capacity of the telegraph. So thanks to the first electronic device(relay) in the world, made by his friend henry. Samuel has broken his challenge and with a relay, he could send signals over 16km of distance. The first model of the telegraph was used in the earlier of 1774 could not exceed the limit of 12m. So it was a big jump in communication technology at that time.

relay in 1840-1850

Relays evolved and become amplifiers after a morse invention. They were an excellent solution as amplifiers of signals due to their low current consumption. They can manage high-power machines with a low power tool relay.

In 1848 and with accord with the morse patent. The first telegraph using the first electronic device in the world(relay) was installed in Indiana in 1848. 

  • Brown Drum Relay 1899
Brown Drum Relay

After 1860 telegraph was advanced technology. At that time humans have made a big and interesting step in communication and civilization. But with every technology, there are some shortcomings and problems.

Telegraphs have a common problem. It was in the accuracy of signal reception and his interpretation. Consequently, it was affecting the quality of communication and causing some issues and disturbs.

Some trials and development were deployed by William Thomson and Sipho recorder but the solution was unsatisfactory until 1899.

In 1899 Sidney George created a new kind of sensitive relay. He gave it a name of a DRUM RELAY which enhanced the quality of signals. As a result the telecommunication quality.

relay in 1900-1932

In 1922 the new type of relay comes to life called reed relays. He was enhanced and developed in laboratories by professor Valentin Kovalenkov at Leningrad Electrotechnical University.

reed relays

His concept is based on a simple form. He is a simple switch made of flexible metal contact. To clarify these contacts are sealed in glass envelopes. You can see them clearly in the image below.

reed relays

These contacts are sensible to a magnetic field. When the magnetic field is present the contact or lams close and let the current flow to a circuit. you can see the explanation in this diagram below.


reed relays principale of work

relay in 1900-1932

In telecommunications. The relay was used in a switching system that was known as telephone switches. Moreover, they were using solid-state electronics to ensure the purpose of developing telephone calls.

In this area. The use in switching telecommunication was purely based on the first electronic device in the world(relay). They were counting on electromechanical relays and voice paths.

The journey of a relay in telecommunication use will end up after the invention of transistors. After that, they have adopted transistors in the earlier of 1950.

The transistor was a small electronic component. It had the ability to do the same job and with better quality. Because it is fast, tiny, and lasts for a long time.

More than that transistors can work as amplifiers or switches at the same time. The transistors are the smallest electronics components. It uses much less electricity compared to relays and they could work even with a lower current than relays do. But nowadays relay still used in different industrial sectors.

The invention of transistors is based on relay discovery and applications. Transistors have made a revolution of computers in an amazing way. This is how it’s a transistor in our days.


relay 1972 – 2021

So many applications still use the normal relays. But in some cases the application needs accuracy and this is why is born the SSR “SOLID STATE REALY”.

It is an electronic device whose role is like a normal relay. Switching circuits from on to off or vice versa. It is like a switch. Therefore the switch isn’t mechanically like the traditional relay. In conclusion, it doesn’t have any moving parts.

solid state relay

The solid-state relay is based on transistor technology and sensor that detected signals. This device comes to solves issues like vibration and the short lifetime of mechanical contacts.

we can observe that technology is linked in a sequential way. when the technology gets discovered another one is borns from it.

Without a relay, we couldn’t have a telegraph. And without relays. We couldn’t even have laptops today. Relays have built the first step and first pillar to allow the transistor to come to life. Which made a huge change and evolution of how we live now.

how it work the first electronic device in the world (relay)

You’ve seen the evolution of relay technology. Maybe you want to summarize a little bit about relays. You wonder with yourself.

Do the first electronic device in the world still a life?.

if yes. Is there another type of relay today?

In general, there are three types of relays.

  • the first one is electormagnetique realy. That is the first electronic device in the world
  • the second one is reed relay
  • and the last one is the solid state relay or SSR

So how do these relays work?

  • electromagnetique relay:

Relay has two principal components, the magnetic coil and switch or contact. When current flows on the coil it creates an electromagnetic field. This last one attracts a metallic contact and finally closes the circuit. The operation happens in a few milliseconds and it is 100 percent mechanical you can see the details in this video.

  • reed relays:

Reed relays are such tiny pieces like medical capsules. They have the constitution of metallic contact and a glass encloser. These contacts are sealed in glass with a vacuum inside. When these contacts feel the magnetic field. They bend and get to touch each other making contact and closing a circuit. That allows current to flow. you can see the operation in this video


The last technology came to solve a group of problems, the first electronic device was born with. Such sensibility to vibration, the short lifetime, and incompatibility of such industrial applications. That requires fast response and clean signals without distortion.

So the SSR came to solve these issues

The  SSR or solid-state relay is a component-based on transistor technology. He is goal is to perform switching operations. The solid-state relay has no moving part. Which makes them fast for a response, less current consumer, and has a long lifetime. SSR has different types you can watch this video to know more about the SSR relays.


Relays have been one of the principal technologies. As a result, that accelerated an electronic evolution in the 80s of speed light. We were from having big boxes, heavy and expensive computers, to a finger computer or chip called today. Who makes the fascinated things that nobody would think ever.

So we always have to give a priority to research and science especially stem classes. In order to build a generation that can lead the next discoveries. And make us, why not? go outside from our tiny world to outside worlds.

They may seem to you like flashy words. But if you could go back to the time 1837 where the best electronic device was born. And you ask your grand grandfather about talking with someone in a video online. You will be an idiot and fool. So this is a technology. It makes the IMPOSSIBLE in past, POSSIBLE in the future.


Yassin ajanif is a physics graduate and electromechanical engineer width more than 5 years in the field. My goal and my team are to share our experience to help you succeed in your career as a stem major. we talk about all tips, problems, and struggle STEM students face in their career and how to overcome them.