TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Bell Divestiture

Re: Bell Divestiture
20 Jun 2005 07:17:47 -0700

Fred R. Goldstein wrote:

> I was there. I was doing traffic engineering for AOLnet in 1996,
> during the America On Hold debacle.
> Going to my point -- the Telecom Act of 1996 prevented a total
> meltdown of the network because it allowed CLECs to take over the
> high-volume dial-in traffic *just in time*.

None the less, by that time the Bell System was LONG GONE.
The telephone system was running under a totally different mold.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: [1978] ...
> Standard Oil Credit Card Office in Chicago I had an IBM terminal on
> my desk. I knew very little about the thing, except that it was
> intended to eventually replace the punch cards which were around
> everywhere. By 'everywhere' I mean that there were shopping carts
> like used in a grocery store, and women would push these carts around
> the room all day, every day, taking 'trays' (metal containers with
> four or five hundred cards) off your desk, put them in the shopping
> cart with others that had been gathered up, leave you a few new
> 'trays' of several hundred cards each in their place, then come back in
> a couple hours and repeat the process. As we examined and made correc-
> tions to the cards, we were to keep them in _exactly_ the same order
> (within the tray) as they had been given to us.

I'm surprised such a high volume installation wasn't using
a new technology such as the previously mentioned Mohawk Data Systems
key-to-disk. Your cards may have been from an old style 'reproducer*'
that read gas station charge slips and converted the contents to a
punch card (that's why the charge number and amount were in those
funny letters). But again I'm not surprised more modern electronic
readers weren't in use since they were common by the late 1970s.

(*IBM reproducers also converted the tiny tickets from dept. store
clothing purchases into punch cards. They were also used go
gang-punch common information into a series of cards, or copy
permanent information from a master card into a transaction card.)

> Sometime in 1977 or early 1978 the Bell and Howell Company of Skokie

I see their name advertised sometimes. They were big into commercial
film equipment (ie move projectors, slides, microfilm). I wonder what
became of the company now?

At one time many companies used 16 mm sound films as a way to
communicate to employees, stockholders, and customers. The largest
companies had their own film depts while smaller ones contracted it
out. A great many large firms had at least one 16 mm sound projector
available to show training or otherwise films. There were somewhat
portable models corporate spokesmen would take around to social clubs
and organizations and show a film showing the company.

Today these films are extremely valuable historically. They show
attitudes and trends of business. Sadly, I suspect a great many are
being destroyed as companies merge or fold.

Some films from the Bell System (which made a great many) are
available on VHS from collectors.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: My grandfather got me on at Standard
Oil in the credit card office in Chicago in June, 1967, _not_ in 1978!
His boss had gotten me the phone room job at University of Chicago
when I was in high school in 1959; grandpa was with the company as an
executive at Whiting Refinery for several years, but did not think I
should be doing refinery work. You see, I am not really all that good
at doing hard labor jobs. Grandpa's boss was going to put me to work
in the superintendent's office either in Whiting or maybe send me back
to Neodesha, KS (where grandfather had worked at one time); I thought
I should stay around Chicago where my friends were so he suggested the
marketing department or credit card processing office would be good
for me.

In the credit card processing office in 1967 they had IBM 370
computers but also relied heavily on a combination of optical scanning
and key punching and manual verification. That's when we had those
women with their 'shopping carts' full of metal trays which in turn
were full of cards. The tray-full of cards was considered a
'batch'. No desktop terminals in sight anywhere. After we had
corrected mistakes found in the batches all the cards were taken to an
IBM 'gang-punch' machine where they were stacked up thousands at a
time, and run through a machine which could read them and punch
them. The cards fell out in two pockets. One pocket was the correctly
punched cards; what fell in the other pockets were rejects, and you
had to put this stack in a second time in the hopes _that time_ they
would get punched correctly.

Some cards just never would punch for some reason. There were other
cards which got mangled up or mutilated by the gang punch machine, and
these had be handled specially/ I had to use a rubber stamp and stamp
the letters 'NMU' on the card (these were all gas station customer
invoices.) Then I had to take a fresh, crisp blank card, which was
entitled 'substitute for invoice', fill in all the details by hand and
run that one through the gang-punch instead, along with another
'control punch' in one of the columns which meant it was intended to
replace the NMU (or Non Machine Usable) card. That special punch
caused the card to fall out of the stack when the customer bills were
sent out (about seven hundred thousand customers were billed each day,
22 days per month), and when that one fell out, that customer's
tickets were taken to someone who kept the mangled card in a pile on
her desk, and the substitute was swapped out for the mangled card
which was actually sent out, at the end of the line.

In 1970 I guess, I do not remember for sure, they brought around
terminals, sat them on the desks and told people 'Do not Touch These'
until we explain what to do, which was about a month later. We were
told these would be replacing some of the job functions that had been
done manually before. PAT]

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