TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Bell System and GTE Telephone Operator?

Re: Bell System and GTE Telephone Operator?

Paul Coxwell (
Wed, 03 Aug 2005 01:33:46 +0100

> Historically, there wasn't much of a career path for a telephone
> operator. Often young women took the job for a few years until they
> got married or had kids, and then they quit. Some returned after the
> kids were grown. A few would get promoted to be supervisors. Others
> would leave and get jobs as PBX operators -- almost all large PBX
> installations required an operator to be "Bell trained" and have Bell
> Telephone experience to get hired.

That's pretty much how it was in the days of the old state-run GPO
Telephones in Britain too. As I understand it (I wasn't born until
1966), it was pretty much just expected that any younger girl who got
married would leave.

In a similar way to "Bell trained,", an operator who was "GPO trained"
was often regarded as the best available for a large PBX.

About 8 or 9 years ago the BBC produced a drama show -- "The Hello
Girls" -- set in a typical telephone exchange in the late 1950s/early
1960s. The show ran for only two very short seasons, but received
many favorable comments from those who had worked in GPO exchanges of
that era for the way it captured the atmosphere so well. (It might be
available on tape or DVD, I'm not sure.)

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Traditional Bell had a habit of always
> using an 'X' to mean 'e(X)change', as in PBX (P)rivate (B)ranch
> e(X)change, FX as in (F)oreign E(X)change, and PAX as (P)rivate
> (A)utomatic e(X)change.

This use of "X" was also widespread by the British GPO. There was the
whole group of varying terms for a private branch exchange: PBX, PABX or
PAX, PMBX, etc.

There was the old UAX -- (U)nit (A)utomatic e(X)change -- series of
small Strowger step-by-step systems which were the mainstay of village
and rural telephone service at one time.

Electronic switching systems became known as TXE, for (T)elephone
e(X)change (E)lectronic. Crossbar offices were designated TXK,
although how they got the "K" is anybody;s guess.


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