TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Bell Divesture (was Re: Schools Prohibit Personal E-mail Sites)

Re: Bell Divesture (was Re: Schools Prohibit Personal E-mail Sites)
Thu, 16 Jun 2005 13:30:21 -0700

> The reality is that the Bell System was continually improving its
> switchgear, transmission media, customer service, and subscriber
> equipment right up until divesture. Long distance rates were falling.

The No. 1ESS was basically a No 5XBAR with stored program control
(SPC). The real motivator was to cut labor cost and secondarily to be
able to market special calling features.

Not knocking that nice forward step in switching, but it was good for
Ma Bell first, and the customer could (would) ride along for whatever
benefits it gave to the subscribers.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I have said more or less the same thing
for several years. Please recall that through the 1960's, fraud
against the telephone company had reached scandalous levels. Everyone,
or nearly everyone 'who mattered' knew how 'the system' worked. No one
paid for anything from telco they could avoid. For example, consider
the old style 'calling cards' with the numbers and 'key letter'
combination. Calling cards _used to_ consist of the RAO (Regional
Accounting Office) code, ten digits (a/c plus phone number) and a
'key letter' (such as 'A' though 'J') . As their little secret, telco
took one of the ten digits [normally the fourth, fifth or sixth
digit] of the phone number, and tied it into the 'key letter'. For
example, if the fifth digit in your phone number was a '7' then the
key letter for that year was 'B'. Bell would announce in internal
memos each year what (positioned) digit would be used, and what letter
would be associated. No one was supposed to know how it worked,
except for telephone operators, so that if you said to the operator
that you wanted to make a calling card call she could at least tell if
you got the logistics correct (by the key letter and number thing)
even if you were full of malarkey about the number to be charged,
which she could _not_ tell if you were using a pay station. Illinois
Bell wrote off _millions of dollars_ in calling card fraud each
year, as did New York Telephone.

Things had gotten to be so bad that not only did people rip off phone
calls like crazy (most phreaks never paid for phone calls) but far too
many people otherwise were 'too smart for their own good' in Bell
System's opinion on things such as how calls were traced as needed. A
phreak once said to me, "pay no attention to all that stuff in the
movies where someone calls the operator and says 'trace that call I
just recieved'; I can tell you that _if_ an _attempt_ is made to trace
the call, they will send some guy back to the frames, he is going to
look and look and look and look some more then he will discover the
origin of the call is some other central office so he has to call over
there, and someone there has to go in the frames and look and look and
look and look some more. And just about the time he thinks he has the
call traced, he hears a sickening crash as the tandem (call connection
circuitry) collapses because the call was disconnected, and it was a
wasted effort. So if I am 'on a call' and some old bitch tells me she
is going to 'have the call traced' and get me in trouble I just her
'go ahead and do that' ... I figure I can chat with her for another
20-30 minutes at least before it gets to the point that it is going to

In Chicago, there was an 'elite society' of phreaks who always had
a meeting once a year in January: after first making solemn oaths to
_not_ abuse each other's personal calling cards, everyone laid their
calling card out on a table for everyone else to see. The idea was to
by process of elimination detirmine the formula for the key letters
and which positioned digit was chosen for that year. The more people
present, the wider variety of examples to use in seeing how it worked
for that year. Once they were reasonably certain how things would
work, they put in a couple of 'test calls', to verify their hypothesis
(this year it is the digit in the nth position, and the associated
letters are [etc]).

Bell got hit so bad for a few years, they finally decided they had
to rebuild the entire phone system from the ground up, and the answer
to that was ESS. So as you stated, Bell did not develop ESS in order
to make a few dollars selling 'custom calling features' to users; ESS
was developed so the telephone company could regain control of a
network which was rapidly getting out of control. When Bell was able
to give users a free (or nearly free) ride on the new technology,
they did so. They didn't develop 'caller ID' or 'call waiting' or
'three way calling' for _your_ benefit; everything Bell did was for
its own benefit first and foremost. PAT]

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