TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: "All the President's Men" (Still More Movie Phone Trivial)

Re: "All the President's Men" (Still More Movie Phone Trivial)
Tue, 19 Jun 2007 14:12:22 -0700

On Jun 19, 9:25 am, Sam Spade <> wrote:

> Washington, DC had quite a few ESS offices when Watergate happened,
> which is a different environment than "Wrong Number" or "Dial M for
> Murder." ;-)

"Quite a few"? In 1973-74 ESS was still relatively new as a
production item. I dare say that within a city most would be served
by panel or #1 XBAR, maybe a few exchanges with ESS. Anyway, in
1973-74 I think most subscribers still had plain vanilla dial
telephone service. In affluent neighborhoods, many people might have
Touch Tone.

My impressions of newspaper telephone service and hardware was based
on visits to a major city paper of that time.

> But, typewriters had come a long way, with correcting Selectrics. ;-)

I'm not sure when correcting Selectrics came out, but I think it was
after '74. In any event, they were a premium expensive model,
probably more found with executive secretaries than with junior
reporters. In those years, the secretary to a manager had a nice
electric typewriter, but those using a typewriter for routine work (ie
bank clerk or librarian) had manuals. (Remington and Underwood both
made very nice manuals in that time frame.) By 1980 things would be
very different, but it was a slow transition. Typewriters were rather

> When Watergate happened, the only mobile phones were those giant
> bricks mounted in the car, and which transmitted and received in the
> open on VHF low, where every sharp kid with a scanner could hear the
> conversation with ease. ;-)

There were only a few frequencies available and a huge waiting list
for mobile service despite the high cost. But in those days, when
more people were in a city, payphones were everywhere. Lobbies of
office buildings had banks of them (nice ones with a tiny chair,
table, fan, light, and closed door). Often every floor of a
commercial building had one too, in addition to the lobby bank.

For some reason I don't know, when Bell and Motorola applied to test
new cell service, the FCC sat on it for two years.

The phones on the new Metroliner train (introduced 1969) were an early
type of cellular service (albeit huge cells), but the principle of
automatic handoff of call from one cell to the next was proven with
that. To the caller, the phone was a standard pay phone with dial
direct service. Somewhere online is a Bell Labs article describing
it. Neat little system.

I understand the Feds later yanked the frequencies away from the
train, ironically, to use for White House communications.

Some commuter railroads later made a big deal of having mobile pay
phones available on their trains, which was a neat service. But
within just a few years those phones became obsolete as people got
their own cell phones.

> Sadly, the daily newspaper is going the way of the buggy whip.

Society will suffer as a result. Certainly news via the 'net has
benefits. But a printed newpspaer is something of _record_ which is
important, not fleeting eletrons on a screen. Newspaper articles have
far more depth.

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