TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Bell System Interconnect Paging Systems?

Bell System Interconnect Paging Systems?
10 Jul 2006 10:52:00 -0700

Years ago (1969) at the hospital I worked at, the paging (loudspeaker)
system was built directly into the Bell PBX switchboard. The paging
operators pulled a separate key and then could broadcast via their
standard operator's headset. When they pulled the key a red light
glowed to indicate to other paging operators the system was in use.

[Only the operators were allowed to broadcast on the page, nurses and
staff dialed the page operators for their request. For urgent
requests ("stat"), a special number was used that sounded a Bell Chime
ringer set on doorbell. Operators instantly answered that and
announced the page five times instead of twice. There was another
number for fire calls which rang a very loud bell. In certain urgent
cases operators telephoned the main elevator operator in the car with

The system also played music when not paging, this was automatically
cut out when the operators used the page. The operators did not
handle the music tape recorder other than to merely turn it on and off
as appropriate.

The loudspeakers and wiring appeared to be of a generic design that
could've been Western Electric, but I could not find any labeling on

Also at my uncle's factory, anyone could use the page. They had a
small telephone net as a key system. To use the loudspeaker, one
dialed 6 on the LOCAL circuit and then made their announcement. I
only visited there briefly once, but it appeared the loudspeakers were
not Bell System issue.

I was wondering if the Bell System supplied the paging system, music
player tape recorder, or allowed a private interconnect (one of the
rare exceptions where Bell allowed physical interconnects).

Would anyone know if such paging systems were allowed to be
independent and connected into the switchboard?

As an aside, in a very recent visit hospital visit I saw operators
making many pages for doctors. Way back in my day they were slowly
converting to beeper operation for doctors. Back then, the page
operator dialed the beeper's code then announced the message. Beepers
only worked in hospital grounds. I'm surprised today, 30 years later,
beepers aren't exclusively used.

Also, my old hospital PBX was quite regimented in Bell System dial.
Page operators used brief exact simple phases: "Dr Jones 536"
(meaning, 'Dr. Jones call extension 536'). The modern hospital added
verbage and was inconsistent, "Dr Jones call for you on extension 453"
or "Dr. Jones, please call extension 435". In sitting there (I had to
wait for my visit), I found the modern day verbose announcements
annoying; I'd prefer the old style brief announcement.

My old hospital also had a dictaphone system. That was privately
owned but fully interconnected with the switchboard. That is, when
dialing the dictaphone system, a whole separate level on the switch,
the trunk was through and the user could dial instructions and the
dictaphone would decode the dial impules and respond accordingly.
Later, secretaries would hear the recordings and type up the material.
The PBX operators had nothing to do with that system.

I don't know if hospitals still have such systems. Miniature tape
recorders can be easily carried around and record notes right on the
spot, without the need to go to a phone and mess with dial codes. I
think there are commercial services -- using Touch Tone command codes,
that provide transcription.

I wonder what other physically connected systems were allowed by the
Bell System in the old days. (Railroads had their own systems.)

[public replies, please]

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: When I was employed by the University
of Chicago in the phone room (1958-63 or so), we had more or less the
same kind of operation. Users (mostly nurses and other employees of
the University of Chicago Hospitals) dialed '7' -- it was known as
'Telepage' and gave their message to one of the operators, who then
relayed it over the paging system. It was a little bit disconcerting
however, since the operator could not 'hear herself speak' when
paging. By that, I mean that the phone room was about a block to the
east of the hospitals complex. We also had a musical background for
those very few instances when there was not a page in process. Typically
the operators who answered 'Telepage' -- I think there were five or
six of them -- were frequently queued in line waiting for the red
light on their boards to indicate the channel was free for them to
use. The pages went out one after the other, all day and much of the
night, to 'channels' were the caller was waiting on hold. For example,
when Dr. Jones responded to a page by dialing 5904 for example, he
would be cut into the holding circuit where Mr. Smith (who had earlier
dialed '7') was waiting on hold to speak with him. I think they had
ten links or holding circuits where the '7' dialers would wait for
the person they were paging to respond to them (by dialing 5901
to 5910 I think). 'Dr. Blue' and 'Dr. Cart' were two exceptions of
course. When the loudspeakers called for Dr. Blue or Dr. Cart those
two were told where they were needed. There were also some code names
for security police and fire as needed. But if an operator got a
request for Dr. Blue or Dr. Cart or security (I forget what that code
word was) they did not have to wait in the queue; they simply went on
line and started announcing it. But for those special emergency pages,
the operators also pressed a little 'chirper' noise when they went on
the line to identify what they were doing. PAT]

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