TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: "All the President's Men" (Still More Movie Phone Trivial)

Re: "All the President's Men" (Still More Movie Phone Trivial)

Sam Spade (
Tue, 19 Jun 2007 16:29:27 -0700 wrote:

> On Jun 19, 9:25 am, Sam Spade <> wrote:

>> Washington, DC had quite a few ESS offices when Watergate happened,
>> which is a different environment than "Wrong Number" or "Dial M for
>> Murder." ;-)

> "Quite a few"? In 1973-74 ESS was still relatively new as a
> production item. I dare say that within a city most would be served
> by panel or #1 XBAR, maybe a few exchanges with ESS. Anyway, in
> 1973-74 I think most subscribers still had plain vanilla dial
> telephone service. In affluent neighborhoods, many people might have
> Touch Tone.

Yes, quite a few. The first #1 ESS deployment was, as I recall, in
1967. It started off slow, but DC became the first place to experience
a major deployment, for obvious reasons. ;-)

The public wouldn't have known about it because calling features weren't
promoted much, and not at all in some areas, until 1975, or so.
Touchtone was available on No 5 XBAR in most of those areas in the the
late 1960s.

The AT&T network policy makers deliberately held back on offering
calling features in the POTS environment for a number of reasons. But,
Centrex government customers in DC were offered the full array as soon
as the cuts were complete.

> My impressions of newspaper telephone service and hardware was based
> on visits to a major city paper of that time.

>> But, typewriters had come a long way, with correcting Selectrics. ;-)

> I'm not sure when correcting Selectrics came out, but I think it was
> after '74. In any event, they were a premium expensive model,
> probably more found with executive secretaries than with junior
> reporters. In those years, the secretary to a manager had a nice
> electric typewriter, but those using a typewriter for routine work (ie
> bank clerk or librarian) had manuals. (Remington and Underwood both
> made very nice manuals in that time frame.) By 1980 things would be
> very different, but it was a slow transition. Typewriters were rather
> expensive.

Here is a ad featuring a Correcting Selectric II in 1973.

I know, as I bought one then. ;-) The first Selectric came out in 1961.

Reporters may not have had Correcting Selectrics in 1973 but all the
bosses secretaries, including the White House I suspect, got them really

>> When Watergate happened, the only mobile phones were those giant
>> bricks mounted in the car, and which transmitted and received in the
>> open on VHF low, where every sharp kid with a scanner could hear the
>> conversation with ease. ;-)

> There were only a few frequencies available and a huge waiting list
> for mobile service despite the high cost. But in those days, when
> more people were in a city, payphones were everywhere. Lobbies of
> office buildings had banks of them (nice ones with a tiny chair,
> table, fan, light, and closed door). Often every floor of a
> commercial building had one too, in addition to the lobby bank.

> For some reason I don't know, when Bell and Motorola applied to test
> new cell service, the FCC sat on it for two years.

I'd have to look through my old BSTJ's but I recall the AMPS tests
being conducted in New Jersey in the late 1970s. Chicago was the
first launch of AMPS in 1983.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Do you recall one difference between
the way 'call forwarding' was originally set up and later on? People
could 'chain call-forward', that is, you forward yours to me; I then
forwarded mine to some other party; they forwarded theirs onward, etc.
Let's call them parties 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D'. People realized they
could forward infinitly if they had enough co-conspirators to help
them, and make a (considerable) long distance call for the price of
a local call. The next generic of 'call forwarding' did not allow
that. Yes, A could forward to B and B could forward to C, etc, but
calls directed to A _stopped_ when they reached B. Calls directed to
B _stopped_ when they reached C. Officially the theory was that
persons calling A only wanted to talk to A. For A's convenience, his
calls could be forwarded to B, but party A did not want to be
forwarded onward to C or D. Or, so said telco. And originally, if A
forwarded to B and contemporaneously B forwarded to A, it would start
an endless loop until eventually all circuits in the CO were tied up.
Telco quickly put a stop to that also. But that 'chain forwarding' was
foolish anyway; people could rarely -- if ever -- make a series of
short distance calls for less expense than a single long distance
call. PAT]

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