TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: History: Pecking Order For Telephone Operator Jobs?

Re: History: Pecking Order For Telephone Operator Jobs?

Tony P. (
Mon, 23 Jan 2006 17:38:41 -0500

In article <>,

> Until the 1980s, the telephone companies employed thousands of people,
> usually women, as telephone operators. They handled calls that
> automatic equipment couldn't and assisted subscribers in case their
> was an automation problem.

> Even after local and long distance dial, there was still a variety of
> operator roles, especially in cities. To me, some of them would be
> interesting but others would be quite montonous. I was wondering if
> there was any "pecking order" in which operator jobs were sought after
> and assigned. (In very small towns the job was more varied.)

> In the early days of manual service in cities, local calls required
> two operators. The "A" operator took the request and connected the
> caller to the proper exchange, even if it was her own exchange. At
> the receiving exchange, a "B" operator connected the call to the
> proper line. This setup was designed for high volume and high speed
> call handling. Ringing was done automatically. A much more
> interesting job would seem to be long distance, where toll calls had
> to be set up by relay between toll centers in each city.

> In the early days of long distance, some COs didn't have ANI and an
> operator had to get the calling number. This job was simply asking
> for numbers and keying in the caller's response to a keypad, nothing
> more. A similar job was in the early days of manual switching, where
> a manual caller reached a dial office. A "B" operator listened to the
> desired 4 digits and keyed them in. These jobs seem rather montonous.

> To me, directory assistance work would be boring.

> Another job was intercept. If someone dailed a number ouf of service,
> an intercept operator would come on and check the number in a special
> list, and provide the new number.

> Automation roughly replaced operators over time as follows:

> . Local calls (basic dial service)
> . Nearby suburban calls (message unit)
> . Long Distance (non coin) (AMA billing)
> . Long Distance "operator handled" assist (TSP, TSPS)
> . Overseas
> . Automated intercept
> . Long Distance (coin deposit recognition, customer input of calling
> card number)

> The replacement of central office and inter-office trunks with modern
> digital gear resulted in higher capacity and more reliability so fewer
> assistance calls were needed.

> In the 1970s computerized consoles (TSP/TSPS replaced the cord
> switchboards and many functions were automated. For example, on a 1+
> coin toll call, the console calculated and displayed the amount to
> collect and did all the work of connecting the call. The operator had
> only to listen to the coin drop. (Later that was even automated).
> For calling card calls, the operator only had to key in the number.
> However, some toll calls required occasional manual routing just like
> the old days.

> In 1968, TV's "Laugh In" had Lily Tomlin play a steroetypical
> telephone operator of the day. I think today's young people would
> have no idea about that since they've never used an operator.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: In the years I was involved in this
> sort of thing, I appreciated being in the essence of a 'small town'
> environment where the few people on duty had a variety of tasks to
> accomplish. That made it a lot more interesting. PAT]

These days VoIP providers don't even provide any operator services.
Press zero and watch what happens. Nothing.

I think that's where the savings on VoIP really kick in. There's no
support infrastructure.

To be honest the only VoIP issues I've had were the fault of either
myself or my broadband provider. And when I did have an issue I got
someone who used to be an old AT&T guy. He understood when I told him
tht ring voltage/current wasn't high enough to trip a mechanical
ringer as on my 2500 and Trimline sets.

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