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148274.  Sat Feb 17, 2007 8:48 am Reply with quote

The first automatic telephone exchange opened in November 1891 in Laporte, Indiana. It was devised by an undertaker, Almon B Strowger, who was angry that calls intended for him were put through to his competitor, because the latter’s wife was the local operator or “hello girl.”

S: Michael Quinion: “Gallimaufry” (OUP, 2006)

148675.  Mon Feb 19, 2007 4:56 am Reply with quote

From wikipedia:

The story has it that Strowger, who according to historians was described as "eccentric, irascible and even mad," was motivated to invent an automatic telephone exchange after having difficulties with the local telephone operators. He was said to be convinced that the local manual telephone exchange operators were sending calls to his competitor rather than his business. He also suspected that the telephone operators were influencing the choice of undertaker when his business was requested. The origin of this suspicion reportedly arose from an incident in Topeka when a friend died and the family contacted a rival undertaker. Other stories claim that the wife or, possibly, the cousin of a rival was a telephone operator and Strowger suspected that the operators were telling callers that his line was busy or connecting his callers to the competition. Yet another story has him boasting of inventing "the girl-less, cuss-less telephone." No reliable details survive to substantiate these claims.

It also says that he formed the Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange Company which installed the first commercial exchange in (his then home town of) La Porte, Indiana on November 3, 1892. Strowger sold his patents in 1896 for $1,800 and sold his share in the Automatic Electric Company for $10,000 in 1898. His patents subsequently sold for $2.5 million in 1916. Strowger was a man of some wealth at his death and was reported as owning at least a city block of property.

149749.  Wed Feb 21, 2007 5:55 am Reply with quote

Some of our older viewers will remember Subscriber Trunk Dialling, and we’re all familiar with letters as well as numbers on telephone dials.

According to a letter in the 21.9.06 Daily Telegraph, resting home of the dead, “This made possible a party game in which one dialled a word to find out who would answer. For instance, if one dialled O-B-S-C-E-N-I-T-Y the phone was answered by the toll office at the end of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.”

I can’t help feeling there ought to be something here for us, but I’ve been unable to find anything else on it. I’m hoping someone else might have better googling luck.

149762.  Wed Feb 21, 2007 6:22 am Reply with quote

Chap in trilby and trenchcoat:
"Operator, operator ... get me Scotland Yard, as fast as you can!"

Pretty girl with hair in bun:
(plugs cable into socket)
"Thet's Whitehall one two one two ... putting you through, caller."

Scotland Yard seems to have moved to a different exchange, but it kept the 1212 number:

Call us: 020 7230 1212 (24 hour switchboard)


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