Here’s a little bit of telephone history to put our current use of the voice channel into perspective. We won’t try to cover everything, but if you run across anything of special interest, we will be interested in hearing about it.
Long Distance Phone Call in 1954
This is a dramatization of a long distance call from the radio series Dragnet. Sgt. Joe Friday (Jack Webb) places a person-to-person long-distance call to a personal number via a manual switchboard in Fountain Green, Utah.
In the call, Friday calls a long-distance operator in Los Angeles and gives the name and number of the called party.
The operator then calls a rate operator to get the route and rate. The rate operator responds that the call should be routed through Salt Lake City, Utah and Mount Pleasant, Utah and that the rate for a night person call is $1.40 per minute; $11.79 per minute in 2012 dollars or $707.40 for an hour’s worth of chit chat with someone only two states away.
The Los Angeles operator then calls the Salt Lake City operator and asks for Mount Pleasant; the Salt Lake operator rings Mount Pleasant, and the Los Angeles operator asks the Mount Pleasant operator for Fountain Green.
The Mount Pleasant operator next rings Fountain Green, and the Los Angeles operator gives the Fountain Green operator the number and name of the called party in Fountain Green.
The Fountain Green operator then rings the number. A man answers and the Los Angeles operator asks for the called party and states that Los Angeles is calling.
The dramatization illustrates the cumbersome and labor-intensive process needed for long-distance calling before direct distance dialing was a reality.
Touch Tone Button Layout Design
Bell Systems spent a tremendous amount of time and resources in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s on the human factor design of the buttons for their new touch tone telephones. The main concerns for Bell were speed of dialing and accuracy. The Bell System Touch Tone button design effort was described in this July 1960 issue of The Bell System Technical Journal. Here are the main designs considered by Bell:
Video of the history of the telephone in the USA
This 11 minute video provides a perspective of how telephone service started in the USA, until it grew globally. It includes some interesting statistics that should be surprising to those who don’t know the history of the telephone.