TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: WE 608 Cord Switchboard

WE 608 Cord Switchboard
12 Jul 2006 11:20:10 -0700

In the late 1950s, the Bell System issued its last cord switchboard,
the 608. It was noticeably different than earlier models, with push
buttons instead of levers and was white and modern instead of black and

The 608 board had certain standard features that were not common or not
available on earlier cord boards:

1) Automatically ringing: On most cord boards, the operator pulled the
ringing key until the call was answered, and had to give progress
reports to the caller. On the 608, ringing began automatically and an
audible signal was provided.

2) Ring supervision signals: On most cord boards, the supervision
signal indicated only on hook or off hook. On the 608 the supervision
signal winked while the call was ringing. This avoided confusion
between a call awaiting answer and a call that was finished on a busy

3) Automatic flashing: if a user wants the attendant, they must
manually keep flashing the hookswitch until the operator responds. On
the 608, a single movement causes the supvision signal to flash

4) Universal cord: On most cord boards, only one cord of a pair
(usually the front or left) will work on trunk circuits, while on the
608 either will work.

5) Thinner cords and jacks, modern appearance.

Presumably the 608 rented for a higher price than older models.
However, I've seen all sorts of cord boards in service until the
demise of cord PBXs. FWIW, my own observation was that the 608 was
popular in motels and some apartment houses. The City of Philadelphia
had twenty four (two banks of 12) of them for its Centrex; operators
plugged into a dial group and dialed the extension.

I would presume the new features required considerable extra circuitry
and relays.

I was wondering if the higher price justified the operational
features. Automatic flashing and ringing are desirable on boards with
heavy traffic since the attendant doesn't have to worry about such
calls, and the board displays the difference between an awaiting call
and a terminated call. But push button talk keys and universal cords
seem a little frivolous.

Around 1960 console dial PBXs came out. They had the advantage of
dial for users (see separate post) and no need to pull cords down
after a call.

Does anyone have any experience maintaining or using a 608 board?


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