Reading about the Photophone and modulating the Sun experiments by G3ZPF reminded me of my own schooldays when as a final year physics project I think in 1970, I and another pupil built a light modulated telephone based on a design published in Practical Wireless of June 1970 by J. Thornton Lawrence. For the optical system it used a pair of spherical mirrors from old projection televisions. The detector was the expensive (for a school kid) OCP71 photo transistor, though we did also try ordinary less expensive OC71 transistors with the black paint scraped off with less success.
As David G3ZPF noted the problem with filament bulbs was the thermal inertia, and as I found it was also possible for the filament to mechanically resonate in the wooden box and start to howl. As we had never heard of, nor could have afforded an LED, we tried a Neon bulb run from an HT battery and modulated with a transformer in series with it. I recall coupling up a broadcast radio as the audio source playing "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison and receiving it at the other end of the physics corridor very loud and clear on the audio amplifier on our light telephone receiver, much to the consternation and annoyance of the other teachers in the adjacent classrooms.
I found my black and white photo of the light telephone gear, complete with carbon telephone microphone that we used. It did work a fairly good distance in daylight outside across the school playground, not just the couple of feet shown. Also attached are photos of the original magazine cover and index, but regrettably not the article itself.
This was all before I got my ham ticket, but I already was a SWL and had been exposed to a wonderful ham, Tom GM3OWI (Oh Wild Indians) who visited the school and demonstrated all sorts of neat stuff like lighting a bulb from the output of a transmitter, and also voice modulating a klystron 3cm transmitter that the school had for doing electromagnetic radiation experiments, like polarisation, reflection etc.
Come to think of it, we got to play with a lot of stuff at school in those days which would never be allowed now, mercury, radioactive sources, alpha, beta and gamma, X-Ray and UV. The museum in Edinburgh also had a science area with similar stuff you could play with, and get great shocks from the Van der Graff generator if you put your hand on the glass cabinet and touched the adjacent metal radiator!
73 David Anderson GM4JJJ