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)
Thu, 21 Jun 2007 08:13:04 -0700

On Jun 19, 7:29 pm, Sam Spade <> wrote:

> Yes, quite a few. The first #1 ESS deployment was, as I recall, in
> 1967. It started off slow, but DC became the first place to experience
> a major deployment, for obvious reasons. ;-)

I believe the first "production" ESS was in Suscanna (sp?) N.J. in
1965. After that it was rolled out slowly. Each installation had to
be monitored closely to ensure high reliability and to get technicians
trained on debugging and servicing. Unlike electro-mechanical, one
could not physically go look at a relay or contact point to see a
defect or stick test meters against it. Hardware failures of the
circuit cards -- still a problem back then--had to be detected in other
ways. Bell made improvements after the experience of each

As time went on, experience and improved electronics allowed Bell to
upgrade the original ESS package. Bell learned about what was
necessary in terms of CPU capacity and speed, it learned what
peripheral "add-ons" could safely be accomodated and when the CPU had
to be faster.

(The Bell Labs histories go into this in detail by logical component.
It was sort of like adding a turbo charger to a car's engine and maybe
better fuel injection vs. designing a whole new engine and
transmission. We take a lot of this stuff for granted today.)

Also, Bell developed secondary models to accomodate varying exchange
sizes and capacity. Lastly, as others noted, software programming
changes were necessary.

ESS gradually was rolled out in cities across the country.

In cities, often multiple exchanges were served out of one building.
Often, but by no means always, the exchanges would be 221, 222, 223,

Often when a switch was upgraded, such as from panel to #5 crossbar or
to ESS, only _one_ of the exchanges would be upgraded. So, if they
chose to upgrade 222 and you were 223, you still were served by the
old equipment. This was common in cities. If you wanted services
offered by the new exchange, you had to change your telephone number
(Bell would waive the service charge in this case). In the 1960s,
some people wanted Touch Tone so badly they were willing to change
their number to get it. In the 1970s likewise for new ESS features.

As to Washington, it's understandable that Bell would want to show off
it's latest stuff with features, but at the same time, Bell would want
reliable equipment as well. I don't think Washington would be used as
a test bed until ESS was truly thoroughly debugged. I suspect
Washington got plenty of #5 crossbar to provide Centrex service and
that Bell wouldn't be so quick to scrap them for ESS. Anyway, Bell
might want to impress a _few_ Federal agencies, but for most mundane
places (like Labor and Social Security), standard equipment sufficed.

I don't know the exact total rollout rates over time. I do know that
between roughly 1970 and 1975 relatively few ESS were installed, that
is, a city's service would be mostly provided by pre-ESS machines.
However, from roughly 1975 to 1980 ESS came on line quickly and by
1980 a city's service would be mostly ESS. It seemed the last ones to
cutover would be the newest No. 5 crossbar exchanges. It wasn't too
long that after 1980 that a Bell company could proclaim it was 100%
ESS. (Obviously this all varied by area, some faster, some slower.)

I believe when the digital ESS version replaced the analog version
conversions went quicker. Also, I suspect the decline in the cost of
electronics and continued minaturization made the boxes cheaper.

I can't help but suspect the conversion from crossbar to ESS occured
faster than they had expected, and some crossbar switches were retired
with plenty of useful life left in them. (Some city panel machines
probably should've been retired earlier).

> Touchtone was available on No 5 XBAR in most of those areas in the the
> late 1960s.

I'm not sure if they ever developed converters for Touch Tone for
panel, but they did for step-by-step.

> I know, as I bought one then. ;-) The first Selectric came out in 1961.

Wasn't a Correcting Selectric over $1,000 in 1973? That's an awful
lot of money for back then, when a mid-level white collar salarly
might be $10,000 a year. I believe I bought a good Smith-Corona
portable electric back then and it was a few hundred bucks.

>> 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.

> I'd have to look through my old BSTJ's but I recall the AMPS tests
> being conducted in New Jersey in the late 1970s. Chicago was the
> first launch of AMPS in 1983.

When I say "test", I meant to say public trial with paying customers.
I think it had been tested internally and ready to go to public trial.
I'm talking in the 1970s. I've read this in a number of places and
I'm really curious why the FCC simply sat on their application for two
years. I believe at that time Bell and Motorola had a joint venture
in mobile service -- Bell offered the service and network tie-in while
Motorola supplied the radio-telephone sets. This was still in the
car-phone era.

Let's remember that between the time some new technology is first
announced to the public and when it becomes _widely_ available can be
several years or longer.

TELECOM Digest Editor Noted:

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I had a similar thing going on in
> Chicago for all of three or four days, back in 1973, right after
> Illinois Bell started 'Call Forwarding'. Calls within the city itself
> were only one untimed unit. Calls to/from the suburbs were two or more
> units on a timed basis. This sometimes led to the situation where
> Chicago was on one side of the street and some suburb was across the
> street i.e. Chicago and Evanston, so those calls cost more.

That arrangement seems strange.

In Philadelphia and New York City, if you lived in a city neighborhood
at the border, a call to the adjacent suburb next door would still be
only one unit (untimed). It was only if you were calling from the
inner city or out to a distant suburb did the timing kick in. In
other words, if you were calling across the street that happened to be
city limits you paid nothing extra.

My impression of Bell System charging policy was that a local calling
area generally was not only your own exchange, but also exchanges
directly adjacent to it. In many places, crossing state lines didn't
matter. To this day crossing a state line LATA--which should a toll
call carried by a long distance carrier, is still treated as a local
call between two adjacent exchanges even though now we must dial 1+ac

In any event, it was common for suburban Philadelphia businesses (and
even affluent residences) to have two phone lines, one local, one a
"FX" line from the city. They could use the FX line to make or
receive city calls and no message units would be charged. I checked
the yellow pages and this continues to this day, although message
units have been reduced.

> Not quite _that_ unlimited, said Miss Prissy, the service rep when she
> caught us by trying to call him on his new unlimited unit phone line
> one day. You cannot have two phones in the same house, one unlimited
> calling and one with a tiny, 'regular' package of units, she warned.

That seems strange as I have that very arrangement right now. I use
one line for outgoing calls and the other line for incoming calls.

Indeed, back in the 1960s when I visited suburban people with multiple
phone lines I'd be directed to use the proper telephone to make a call
for that very reason.

> Furthermore, she noted, the 'company' finds it very questionable when
> you leave your umlimited metro line call forwarded 24/7 to a business
> place in Chicago.

I suspect what they feared was you were using a residential line for
business service. The phone company (and regulators) were very
sensitive about that since business customers paid more to cross
subsidize residential customers as well as cover their heavier use of
equipment. That later became an issue in BBS's, where the phoneco
claimed they were a "business" service. (Note that "business" is not
whether it is non-profit or not, but rather an organization rather
than a residence.)

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The reason it seemed strange -- and it
was -- was that *everything* in the Chicago telephonic area was based
around the center of everything there, State & Madison Streets in
downtown Chicago. The first 'circle' took in all of Chicago ONLY which
was Zone 1. Suburbs which touched Chicago were Zone 2. Suburbs which
were a bit further out and did not touch Chicago were Zone 3. Still
further out were Zone 4 and 5 suburbs. Some of the furthest away
geographic neighborhoods in Chicago proper (such as Austin, Pullman,
Rogers Park) were at one time independent villages on their own, such
as Austin, Illinois; Pullman, Illinois; Rogers Park, Illinois. These
independent towns or villages were eventually annexed into the City of
Chicago itself, and they got the 'benefits' given to city dwellers
including phone calls: call anywhere in the 'city' for one thin
nickle. This was in the 1890-1910 era. By the way, each of those
previously independent towns/villages (now Chicago neighborhoods)
still have as their oldest and first phone exchanges name/numbers such
as AUStin-7, PULlman-5, and ROGers Park-4, or 773-287, 773-785, and
773-764, dating back to when they were, well, independent villages.
At one point, even ENGlewood-4 and HYDe Park-3 were the independent
towns of Englewood and Hyde Park, Illinois. Anyway, just as the sun
spins around the earth each day, everything revolved around downtown
Chicago at the center of the city, State and Madison Streets. That is
how the Zone system came to be. Chicago residents were able to call
some *35 miles* (as an extreme) from one place in Chicago to another
place in Chicago (7600 north by 4200 west to 13500 South by 2900
East in a few cases, and all for one thin nickle. Chicago-proper
residents were given an allotment of 80 'message units' per month to
use as they wished as part of their monthly bill. As long as your
call started and terminated in Chicago itself, talk all day if you
wanted for that one unit (nickle). Because all of Chicago was in
Zone 1.

But the suburbs were _different_. They got the same 80 units per month
in their allotment, but their 'local calling area' was much smaller.
Sure, the entire village was in 'the same zone' (be it Zone 2 or 3)and
the same rules applied, but one side of your town was three or four
blocks from the 'other side' of town. And since all but the most
provincial of the suburban dwellers had some sort of business or
social relationship with someone in Chicago, they had to pay dearly
for phone service. Oh, the rates were the same, the unit allotment
was the same, but the allotment just did not go that far. Illinois
Bell once conducted a study of their subscriber's phone service needs,
and where Chicagoans plodded along with 80 or 100 message units just
fine, the suburbanites typically needed 400-500 units just to 'be'
each month. And by the 1980's, more and more residents were living
_and working_ in the suburbs. A Chicago city dweller usually
considered 'unlimited call pack' (as phone service packs were known)
as an extravaganza; quite expensive; suburbanites, especially those
some distance away from the city itself, unlimited call pack was a
necessary thing, since it was all based on downtown Chicago anyway.

Then Ameritech took over. One of the first things they did was
announce _no more call packs_, no more call for 'free' in the city
where you lived only and similar. The new rule was you could call
for 'free' unlimited in time, anywhere within an eight mile radius
of where your phone was located. Anywhere within your own central
office or the next contingent central office. Now, the suburbanites
had an even shake with the city dwellers. More than eight miles (or
your central office and the next C.O. away) you would pay about 5
cents per minute; and you could purchase various packages which
reduced the rate to as low as 2.1 cents per minute. Bell's rationale
for all this was "most subscribers' community of interest is not
going to be twenty or thirty miles away; it is going to be around
their immediate neighborhood, or certainly within 5-8 miles of their
home." Now suburban dwellers could call maybe two communities away
where a family member worked or lived for 'free' just like a city
dweller. And, the city dwellers didn't really miss not being able to
call all the way to 139th and Burnham Avenue for 'free' anyway
except if they lived out there (within the city, recall) and in that
case they got it as part of the eight mile radius like anyone else.

Miss Prissy was furious about the new plan, of course, and businesses
were never allowed (under the old unlimited call pack plan or the
new 'eight miles radius for free' plan) to have any of those
concessions anyway. _They_ always had to pay virtually everytime the
phone went off hook for an outgoing call. But for most people, Chicago
came to be considered as just one blob on a map of northern Illinois
which wound up being divided into several 'eight mile radius' areas
surrounded by a few hundred suburbs clustered together in 'eight mile
radius' areas, a few suburbs here, a few there, etc. And of course,
telephone prefixes and 'area codes' no longer mattered where the
billing was concerned. When I had an office on Howard Street in
Chicago years ago (old 312), to call across the street to Evanston to the
McDonalds Restaurant (old 708) to get my lunch delivered it always cost me
2 units or about ten cents. When the rates were changed, the same call
was within _my_ eight mile radius so it became a free call, but to
call to downtown Chicago (present 312) at cost me 2 units or ten cents for
the ten mile call. In essence, Ameritech said that "downtown Chicago
is no longer the center of the universe" and for most of us it was
a welcome decision. PAT]

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