TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Research on History of Automated Operator Services

Re: Research on History of Automated Operator Services
31 Aug 2006 13:33:08 -0700

Denise C wrote:

> I am working on a dissertation thesis based on who the founder of
> automated operator services (AOS) technology was. I'm specifically
> interested in who developed AOS in customer-premises equipment, such
> as in hotels or airports.

I guess the first question is what is your definition of AOS?

The function of the telephone operator on toll calls is two fold: 1)
to make the physical connection and 2) handle the billing.

Originally operators did it all 100% manually. Gradually automation
assisted their effects. In the 1930s, the call set up work was

After WW II the physical connection part was automated (over time).
That is, the operator no longer built up a connection via various toll
centers, rather, she simply dialed the area code and number. She
continued to handle the billing work.

Shortly afterwards customers could dial their own station calls.
Operators were needed only on coin and person/collect/card/3rd/special
calls. Then customers could even dial those with the operator doing
less and less. Further, the billing work itself was automated,
operators no longer had to watch the time and write up toll tickets.
In more recent years, machines could listen for coin drops or accept a
keyed in card number. I don't know how today they handle verifying
collect or person or 3rd number.

So, as you can see, the "automation" part of operator assistance has
been going on since the 1930s. It's nothing new, and not attributable
to a single person. The level of automation has varied from one point
in time to another as well as from place to place. Indeed, some travel
terminals had attended public telephone centers where an attendant in
person assisted your call needs .

The owner of an hotel can and usually has added a surcharge for making
any telephone call from a room. When pay phones were a dime a room
call was 50c. Long distance surcharges varied. Nothing new here. The
work was usually done by the hotel operator with some assist and
automation from Bell.

As to airports, that's a more recent change. These days, pay phones
may be privately owned and operated, and the payphone owner (through
the owner of the property its located on) may charge whatever they
want and handle the call any way they want. The call handling itself
is an operator call as discussed above. Sometimes the traditional
telephone company handles it, sometimes a specialty firm handles it.

I hope I didn't confuse the issue, but I think more definition of what
you're looking for in terms of historical context is necessary.

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