TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Using a 608

Re: Using a 608
11 Aug 2006 12:59:54 -0700

Mike Sakowitz Twomey wrote:

> What memories I have on a 608. I was in high school and happened to
> find a newspaper ad for a telephone operator in a large city hospital.
> Since I had always been fascinated with switchboards and telephone
> equipment this was a job that I had to have. I was only 16 and this
> was 1979.

Thanks for the report.

Did you have any trouble getting the job because of your youth or
gender, especially in a large installation?

Around 1973-74 the Bell System and employers slowly began to accept
the idea of male switchboard operators. Before that it was strictly a
female job. The only exceptions were rough environments, such as a
police station or waterfront warehouse. I think the boys hired then
were ex-military with signal corps experience.

There were boys from an all-boys high school who were interested in
such jobs (they learned on their school's 555 PBX) but in those days
found a brick wall because of age and gender. Most companies -- large
and small -- took their PBX jobs very seriously. Big companies
wouldn't break with tradition. Small companies wanted a girl since
receptionist type jobs were women. Young people weren't perceived as
being responsible enough for a large board, although they could get
jobs in very small places, where perhaps working the switchboard was
only part of the duties.

> We also learned that we could take a front cord and connect it to an
> extension jack then depress the "ring front" key and we could almost
> press out a tune.

> I could go on and on. I miss that service and the days of
> switchboards. I was lucky, even then that 608 was considered very
> dated but since we had it doing very advanced things (tandem lines,
> long distance billing, conference calls) the powers that were decided
> that the 608 was the only acceptable board for us until 1983.

I would not call the 608 "dated", it was the most advanced cord board
the Bell System offered. There were plenty of older models in service
in those years. I think what killed the cord board was economics--the
cost of purchasing and maintaining electronics -- like the Dimension
PBX -- came down enough that they were competitive with cord boards.
With all its automation, I don't think the 608 was cheap.

A big disadvantage of cord boards was that they required two
operations per call while a console required only one. With cord
boards, you had to pull the cords down at the end of the call, a
console disconnected automatically.

If your employer was a large organization, it probably went Centrex
which eliminated a lot of traffic.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: But before female operators there were
men (mostly young boys) doing it. I am referring to the 1880-1900
era. Bell got rid of the young guys because they said the customers
complained that the younger guys were rude and crude. PAT]

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