Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Telephone Technology

Today it seems as though almost every teenager and certainly most adults have cell phones, and rapidly I-phones or Blackberries are replacing these as talking is just one limited method of communication. New technologies let you text, email, even pay your bills and as the ads say, do about 75,000 other things. But in 1953, the new technology was the rotary telephone. Do you remember the round 10-holed dial and a local telephone number with only 5 digits? Our local exchange was “7” followed by your 4 digits. The “AN” or”26” was not added until the 1960s and our area code only used for out of state dialing.

But the new technology allowed you to dial yourself. Heretofore, an operator placed your call. An operator station and office was located on the2nd floor rear of the East Hampton Bank & Trust Co at 66 Main Street. Operators such as Beverly Fuller Beecher and Ruth Jacobson Hollings handled the calls patching you through to your party.

With the rotary telephone, you could directly dial the person to whom you wished to talk. But this new fangled self-dialing came with some minor issues – party lines! Back in the 1950s, multiple households shared a single telephone line. You would distinguish whether the call was for you by the number of rings. If two rings were for your house, then you answered. If three occurred, your neighbor answered. It also made for some tense situations where your neighbor listened into your telephone conversation. Of course, you would never listen to theirs.

We take for granted the mobility of telephone and communication services now. Up until the 1970s, telephones were hard-wired and owned by SNET Co. Litigation in the late 1960s deregulated telephone service which allowed us to purchase our own phones. I can remember comedians joking about telephone service in foreign countries such as France where installation of a home telephone could take up to nine months. Here it was usually a few days.

In 1996, on a business trip to South Korea, cell phones, with immediate activation – something we’ve all become accustomed to - were the rage because land lines took a year to install. As the saying goes, “we’ve come a long way baby!” and I have no doubt we will be going a lot further yet.

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