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What Did Americans Really Think Of Old Ma Bell?

I didn't move to America until 1983 and shortly after, they broke up the 'phone companies or something. I think because Ma Bell was considered a monopoly (please tell me if I've got it wrong).

But America had the most efficient and futuristic telephone system in the world. Light years ahead of everyone else. You didn't get Touch Tone in England and the rest of Europe until the 1990s. It had been in America for 30 years by then.

Point of this is...I'm wondering what Americans actually thought of The Bell System. Was it loved or hated? Were they glad it was broken up or was it a case of, as I believe, it was ridiculous to mess with something that worked so well?

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by Anonymousreply 156Last Tuesday at 7:49 PM

It used to cost $30 dollars a month for local phone service back in 1985. I pay $35 for a land line now

by Anonymousreply 107/14/2013

Ma Bell's phones never broke. I still have a phone from my parent's home. I keep it for sentimental value, but if plugged in it would work today. Never lost service once in all of my childhood and many years after that. And rates didn't continually rise year after year.

We had a party line when I was a kid. Growing up there were only a few exchanges, we used exchange names combined with numbers. Sherwood 5678 that was our telephone number. We had one phone for a family of five. It was a black dial model that sat on my parents' night table. When I was a teen we got a wall phone in the kitchen as well. It had a long extension cord and I used to go into the bathroom with the receiver and close the door.

I love my iphone but Ma Bell had her good points.

by Anonymousreply 207/14/2013

The only Americans who objected to the old AT&T were government antitrust lawyers.

by Anonymousreply 307/14/2013

All you have to do is watch Lily Tomlin's laugh-in skits to know what was wrong.

by Anonymousreply 407/14/2013

My sister moved into my grandparents house after they died. They moved after about 5 years and my uncle and his family moved in. My uncle got divorced and his ex got the house. The phone stayed the same for something like 50 years. Same phone, same phone number. There was something called a monthly line fee -- only a few bucks a month -- but the phone company stopped charging my uncle's ex the fee because the line and phone had stayed the same for so many years.

That phone was super heavy and it took forever to dial a number. You could never pick up the phone and walk around the room with it while talking. It was as if it was made out of lead.

by Anonymousreply 507/14/2013

We had New Jersey Bell. It was very reliable, but long distance was considered a luxury. There were two phones in our house, in the den and in the kitchen. New Jersey Bell had a huge community presence, they gave money to many clubs and charities, and at the county fair in 1968, I remember seeing my first video phone in the huge New Jersey Bell trailer that they had all kinds new things to come with a continuous loop movie that had all the futuristic plans all laid out. As a kid this all amazed me. It was reliable, relatively cheap service, but getting things done took quite a while.

by Anonymousreply 607/14/2013

Is this the party to who I am speaking?

by Anonymousreply 707/14/2013

I have never used a rotary phone in my life and I have never seen a phone in someone's home that wasn't cordless.

by Anonymousreply 807/14/2013

I remember New Jersey Bell sent every subscriber a free packet of pencils in January to use to dial the phone.

by Anonymousreply 907/14/2013

[quote]The phone stayed the same for something like 50 years. Same phone, same phone number.

I seem to remember that you often moved into a house and inherited the phones that were already there. Even the number. People would call and you'd say 'Sorry they've moved, I'll find their new number for you...hang on.'

by Anonymousreply 1007/14/2013

My grandparents had one of these telephones.

Black Bakelite, heavy, could hammer nails with it. No curly cords.

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by Anonymousreply 1107/14/2013

It was the phone company. The phone always worked. They had really good science-for-kids TV specials on every once in awhile.

by Anonymousreply 1207/14/2013

(I'll preface this with the fact that I was born in 1952, so this information applies to my childhood years-- late '50s and early to mid-'60s.)

You could not own a phone-- you had to rent one from The Phone Company. (Not always Ma Bell; there were other regional monopolies like GTE and some smaller local companies.) It's kind of like what people do with cable and DSL modems today (although at least you have the option to buy one.)

There weren't any modular connectors so it required a service visit to have a phone changed or added. At some point they came up with a four-prong wall plug so you could move phones from room to room, but of course you had to have the outlets installed in order to do that.

Until the Princess phone came in (early '60s?) pretty much your only choice was either a standard wall or desk phone, with dial. You had a choice of colors, but otherwise that was about it. And of course if you ever wanted to change to a different style or color-- service call that you paid for.

by Anonymousreply 1307/14/2013

It's really great how the break-up of the Bell System led to greater consumer choice.

Sort of like deregulating the airlines.

by Anonymousreply 1407/14/2013

I had a trimline phone in avacado green when I was a kid.

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by Anonymousreply 1507/14/2013

It would not bother me in the least if America went back to the regulated monopoly of the seven Bell companies.

We could still have every product, service, and choices we have today, just from ole Ma Bell.

That ole bird ran a tight ship!

by Anonymousreply 1607/14/2013

Yes, you needed a service call to move or install a telephone, and yes, they charged for everything, but their equipment was world class, and when they installed a telephone line, that line was crystal clear and the wiring was first class.

Do you know that they installed surge protectors where the line entered the house? Now the odds of lightning hitting the pole, voltage traveling down the line and into your house, and you getting electrocuted because you were placing a call at that exact instant are roughly the same as being killed by an asteroid, but it was the policy of the Bell Telephone System to install that surge protector just in case.

Some friends of mine had a summer cabin on an island in the North Woods, a mile by boat. Bell telephone provided service to about 2 dozen cabins that were only in use 3 months per year, because they were a utility, and that was what they did. They ran the underwater cable, they put up a mile of poles in the woods, ran cable to every cabin, and then when there was a storm (at least twice a summer) they showed up in their little boat, went back in the woods and re-strung the wires within hours of the outage.

by Anonymousreply 1707/14/2013

Yes, telephone polls are a thing of natural beauty.

What a bunch of rosy recollections. Nostalgia--it distorts everything.

by Anonymousreply 1807/14/2013

Had a beige wall phone in the kitchen and a yellow (YELLOW!?!) desk phone in the den. It was a luxury when they came out with 25 foot cords for the wall phones and you could walk all over while on the phone and not be stuck in the kitchen.

by Anonymousreply 1907/14/2013

Their instruments and ours' were absolutely made for each other.

by Anonymousreply 2007/14/2013

[quote]Yes, telephone polls are a thing of natural beauty.

That wasn't the point he was making.

by Anonymousreply 2107/14/2013

If only Apple could come up with an app that would let me relive the glamour of dialing my pink Princess phone with a pencil.

by Anonymousreply 2207/14/2013


The telephone company, the power company and later the cable company all share the same poles.

Rent is paid or collected on a semi-annual basis among the three depending on ownership and use.

by Anonymousreply 2307/14/2013

[quote]If only Apple could come up with an app that would let me relive the glamour of dialing my pink Princess phone with a pencil.

I think they have.

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by Anonymousreply 2407/14/2013

One of my neighbors when I was a kid was in charge of inspecting the main cross country buried telephone cable that ran through our town.

His job was to get in the truck and drive a couple of hundred miles inspecting the cable every day. He stopped and did some tests every now and then, but mostly he looked for people digging. One day he would drive east looking at the cable, and the next day he would drive west. Rumor had it that he also reported to the FBI because the security of the cable was in the national interest, but maybe that was just idle gossip.

by Anonymousreply 2507/14/2013

[quote]Black Bakelite, heavy, could hammer nails with it. No curly cords.

When they introduced modular phones the cords were so cheap they were always getting tangled. It was downhill from there.

by Anonymousreply 2607/14/2013

We had the phone pictured in R11. It sat in its own little wall niche in the center hall of our house on Long Island. It weighed a ton. Our exchange was IVanhoe.

And, yes, everything Ma Bell did seemed to work well. I never recall the phone being out of service for very long, and if it was they sent someone to fix it right away.

Oh, and if you wanted to be really classy you dialed the phone with a Tiffany sterling phone dialer.

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by Anonymousreply 2707/14/2013

The big difference after the break up is something most US residents never noticed but totally impacted their lives. People forget that the Bell system financed most physics and computer projects. Bell Labs developed the semi-conductor, UNIX, C programming language and many other innovations. After the spilt, Bell Labs was split into numerous companies (Lucent, Bell Communications Research, AT&T Labs) and lost focus on innovation for innovations sake. You will never hear about Comcast or Cabevision leading the world in physics research. Maybe Google or Microsoft comes the closest to being an innovator today, but it is lacking the Nobel laureates that Bell Labs employed.

by Anonymousreply 2807/14/2013

R28 True.

Bell Labs WAS the icon for many years of American innovation.

But from what someone who worked for Bell Labs and then Lucent told me, it eventually became the sign of how that innovative spirit failed, and how corporate bureaucracy started to eat away at innovation and growth.

He said so many layers of corporate BS were added to any project that most of the time they'd die on the vine and competitors would come out ahead.

by Anonymousreply 2907/14/2013

Adding to what R28 wrote, on a much smaller level, the Bell Telephone jobs were well paid, unionized, and offered great benefits.

In addition, before the break-up, the Bell System really believed in their employees being active in the community. Whether it was blood drives, United Way, teaching CPR at the YMCA or any one of 1001 other things, the Bell employees were front and center.

They taught me first aid in school, they taught electricity in my science class, they came out with their trucks and poles and built bridges at my Boy Scout camp, they put up the lights on the football field at my high school--It never stopped.

by Anonymousreply 3007/14/2013

R1, you're jipped. I only pay 12 dollars for landline service. (And no long distance )

by Anonymousreply 3107/14/2013

R11, my aunt rented one of these from her phone (Ma bell) company. Eventually they sold it to her for a modest fee. She still has it. It rings like a FUCKER (not that people call any more)

by Anonymousreply 3207/14/2013

Divestiture ruined the country.

by Anonymousreply 3307/14/2013

Who remembers phone phreaks?

by Anonymousreply 3407/14/2013

R32 How, exactly, does a fucker ring?

by Anonymousreply 3507/15/2013

[quote] Yes, telephone polls are a thing of natural beauty.

Oh, dear.

by Anonymousreply 3607/15/2013

Ma Bell was a frau and a cunt !!!

by Anonymousreply 3707/15/2013

In terms of innovation, it is possible that we might not have the cell phone today if there had not been a breakup. Or, there would be one choice. I hated the breakup as well at the time, but it was done to encourage innovation. Of course, when markets rule, the consumer gets a mixed bag.

by Anonymousreply 3807/15/2013

Well I think Old Ma Bell was just wonderful since I retired from there in 1986, I am 81 now and wish all those good telephone was still around . I kept one that dial up, its heavy desk type and they are the one's Western Electric made for Ma Belle. would like to see those days again in America.

by Anonymousreply 3903/15/2015

I remember those Bell Telephone educational movies in the 50's and 60's. We learned in "Hemo the Magnificent" all about blood and the circulatory system. Did you know that blood is basically seawater? That would never make it into Texas schools these days because it smacks of evolution.

The 1958 "Unchained Goddess" said that man may be causing climate change that could melt the polar icecaps and flood the Mississippi Valley.

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by Anonymousreply 4003/15/2015

Always loved Ma Bell. She employed my best boy friend, Jack Ravenscroft. Pacific Bell service was always excellent, if a bit expensive compared to todays costs. Everything was available but only at extra cost for every damn thing imaginable. Today I call the world plus caller ID and voice mail, at no extra charge and all for 36.00 including taxes. Hell, I could spend a lot less then that if I weren't so lazy.

by Anonymousreply 4103/15/2015

What about Bell Aircraft? Were they part of the same Bell Corporation?

by Anonymousreply 4203/15/2015

One ringee dingee ....

by Anonymousreply 4303/15/2015

In rural central New Hampshire, New England Telephone was the best. Small towns had four digit dialing into the early 1990s. The Bell System was great.

by Anonymousreply 4403/15/2015

My little phone company in rural Wisconsin was the first in the state to install touchtone phones in 1968. Before that you had to crank a ringer to get the operator and everyone was on a party line which meant you could eavesdrop on your neighbor's conversations.

Patrons avidly listened in on the chats between a wife and her lover while her husband was at work.

Eventually the company was sold and descendants of the founders, one of which was known as the village drunk, made millions.

by Anonymousreply 4503/15/2015

No one ever really called it "Ma Bell." It was always called "The Phone Company."

by Anonymousreply 4603/15/2015

[quote] Before that you had to crank a ringer to get the operator

We had a toy tin wall phone with cowboys and western motif on it just like that. You put the black wood round receiver to your ear, tethered to the phone, turned the crank and some old crone's voice would screech "Central Calling Central Calling." I need to google that for a pic.

Before the break up my phone bill in DC was $8 something a month - after it was about $16. I distinctly remember cursing Judge Greene.

by Anonymousreply 4703/15/2015

The Phone Company scored 100 on service and reliability and zero on innovation.

The dial tone was eternal.

Telephone operators were the most serious and professional workers on the planet, proud of it too.

by Anonymousreply 4803/15/2015

I wish we still had operators.

Like you could pick up the phone and say "Florine? Get my old Doc Barnes please. Father is having one of his spells!!"

by Anonymousreply 4903/15/2015

"A gracious hello."

"Here at The Phone Company, we handle 84 billion calls a year. Serving everyone from presidents and kings, to the scum of the earth!"

"So we realize that, every once in awhile, you can't get your call through . . . or maybe you've been charged for a call you didn't make."

"We don't care!"

"So the next time you complain about your phone service, why don't YOU try using two Dixie cups on a string?"

"We don't care, we don't have to - we're The Phone Company!"

by Anonymousreply 5003/15/2015

Yippee-yi-o-ki-yay. I found it.

My memory is off. It actually says

When you turn the handle, a wobbly sounding voice of an operator says –

“Howdy Partner. This is central. What number do you want? Hold the line. I’ll ring it for you.”

Now THAT'S technology!

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by Anonymousreply 5103/16/2015

We had a deep, symbiotic relationship with Ma Bell.

by Anonymousreply 5203/16/2015

They sponsored these-

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by Anonymousreply 5303/16/2015

R42 -- No, Bell Aircraft, makers of the Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, were a subsidiary of TEXTRON, a big conglomerate.

Not part of Bell Telephone.

by Anonymousreply 5403/16/2015

Two longs and a short was our phone number, hand crank, switchboard was in a relatives home. The breakup of A T &T was not a good thing.

by Anonymousreply 5503/16/2015

I would finger my hole with my dialing pencil while listening to the neighborhood party line.

by Anonymousreply 5603/16/2015

A complete showing of The Bell Telephone Hour...Christmas 1959....Florence Henderson, Rosemary Clooney, John Raitt, Howard Keel, The Lennon Sisters.... IN COLOR!

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by Anonymousreply 5703/16/2015

that bitch used to listen in on my calls and flick her clit to my voice.

by Anonymousreply 5803/16/2015

Lots of groovy sexual innuendo jokes. Aren't they a fucking riot?

I guess they're the digital version of graffiti.

by Anonymousreply 5903/16/2015

[quote]"We don't care, we don't have to - we're The Phone Company!"

I love that line. Also, Ernestine's call to Joan Crawford:

Miss Crawford, it's me again. DON'T you hang up on me. You've angered me and, when you anger me, you anger The Telephone Company and all the power to tie up your lines FOR THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS! Do I make myself clear? Good.

And why was Ernestine calling Joan Crawford? Because she lost her dime in a Pepsi machine.

by Anonymousreply 6003/16/2015

General Telephone had a less than stellar reputation.

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by Anonymousreply 6103/16/2015


"Oh, no, I will not accept a stamp! That is a definite NO to a stamp!"

"I will not accept five 'empties,' either!"

by Anonymousreply 6203/16/2015

[quote]In rural central New Hampshire, New England Telephone was the best. Small towns had four digit dialing into the early 1990s. The Bell System was great.

Four digit numbers in the early 1990s?

I'm sorry but I don't believe it.

I've never seen a number shorter than seven digits on my life.

Maybe the 1890s.

[quote]My little phone company in rural Wisconsin was the first in the state to install touchtone phones in 1968. Before that you had to crank a ringer to get the operator

You went from cranking a ringer to touchtone..with nothing in-between?

I think some people on this thread watched too may episodes of The Waltons when they were kiddies.

by Anonymousreply 6303/16/2015

I liked the shape of old telephones. There were never any sharp edges so the most one could experience during coitus connectus was anal surprise due to rapid opening and sudden closure, not to mention the safety of having a cord hanging out ones butt should ones partner suddenly left in a huff. These things did happen, and I'm here to say, Ma Bell, and we did call her Ma Bell, thought of everything, even it wasn't spelled out in the instruction manuals.

by Anonymousreply 6403/16/2015

r63, yes we did, which is why I even bothered to post about it.

by Anonymousreply 6503/16/2015

Sorry, R63, but I can vouch for a literal fact - 'cause I was "there"!(yes, I'm old) - that even into the 1970's, at least in a tiny hamlet (and neighboring small towns; 2,000 or so population) like where I grew up (2,000 people), one could and DID use just (the last) 4 digits.

We also had party lines, into the 70's; started out with an 8-party line (!!! but was a drag only in the summer when population went up by 75%); then went to 4-parties; then 2-parties, into the late '70's.

MIND you: that was what WE had; not poor but definitely lower-middle-class (and my father, born on a farm in 1917, wasn't nuts about phones; got better as he got older.) The middle-class+ people had "regular" phones; my "rich" aunt in a city 200 miles away, had a private line; somewhat rare (to us, at least) back then.

I can remember dialing "0" to make a long-distance call, too.

I'm sure this all sounds completely unbelievable, not just to you but anyone under - 20? 30? 40?!; again, I was there...

by Anonymousreply 6603/16/2015

R3, I objected to the monopoly. Long distance calling was very expensive. The irony is that MCI who broke up Ma Bell is gone and Ma Bell has reassembled under AT&T.

by Anonymousreply 6703/16/2015

[quote]My little phone company in rural Wisconsin was the first in the state to install touchtone phones in 1968. Before that you had to crank a ringer to get the operator

>>> "In the 1960s the entire Bell system began offering a greater variety of telephones, and Wisconsin Telephone made money selling products like the Princess phone. That same year, Wisconsin Telephone installed its first outdoor walk-up coin phones. In 1964 it began offering touch-tone telephones"

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by Anonymousreply 6803/16/2015

My best friend (in California), who would later go on to be a successful real estate broker, when he was very young (19-25ish) put himself through school working as both a 411 operator and a long-distance operator (the latter was much better, he said.) THe pressure one was under was brutal (this was in SF, about 1-2 miles from SF State); supervisor on one's ass; had to ask to go to the bathroom; had to push a "sneeze button" to sneeze!

I am not making this shit up! Think he was in the union, too; good benefits. Years later we would have a part-time, commuting, elderly roommate; he had retired right before or after the divestiture (breakup of ATT referenced above); retired with decent pension and full medical benefits for himself and wife for life. Those days are long gone.

Oh, I also remember - if not him telling me, reading about somewhere: before and perhaps right after the divestiture, tensions ran so high that there were some big phone co locations where there was actually a LINE drawn on cafeteria floors; one side said "Pacific Bell"; the other, "AT&T."

Hard to believe, I suppose...

by Anonymousreply 6903/16/2015

NYers, remember this phone book cover?

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by Anonymousreply 7003/16/2015

r68, the entire telephone exchange went directly from crank ringers to touchtone phones.

I recall beforehand our phone number was 63J1, and our signal was short, long, short on the ringer.

by Anonymousreply 7103/16/2015

The good ol' days.

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by Anonymousreply 7203/16/2015

Republicans probably liked it.

by Anonymousreply 7303/16/2015

R71 the day they installed Touch Tone phones in Wisconsin @ link

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by Anonymousreply 7403/16/2015

She made the best sugar cookies.

by Anonymousreply 7503/16/2015

I too am a former AT&T employee.

What no one has mentioned is that the company used the income from the more profitable divisions of the company to support the less profitable parts.

The USA was wired for phones by AT&T using profits from divions like Long Lines (long distance). After the breakup, other companies were more than happy to grab the profitable big city long distance for the profits. What did they care that those profits had been used to get phone service to those who were not in profitable areas? The reason the people on the island (mentioned in a previous post, or farmers, or rural areas had stellar customer service was that it was subsidized by other parts of AT&T.

I am still using 4 old Western Electric built phones - 2 Princess phones, 1 desk phone (that I got from my parents' house when they were gone) and 1 Trimline and I still have my landline. Superior sound unlike the crappy reception on cell phones. Pretty much my whole place has easy access to the phone. I don't feel any great need to change. The "newer" phone I once bought to replace the Princess phones was a piece of junk.

And I am not the only one.

There is a big market online for old AT&T phones, particularly those built by Western Electric. All those old AT&T employees who had the know-how started small businesses buying up old phones from hotels, businesses, garage sales, etc. They check the mechanics, polish them up, test them, and sell them. A working Princess Phones goes for around $100. I bought mine from the Phone Store back around 1980 and the company gave me a rebate on the full price of my purchase, meaning that I got the 2 phones for free. Aside from having to do a small repair on one of the receiver cords (that I did myself), they are still working fine.

by Anonymousreply 7603/16/2015

For those of you old enough to remember having prefixes with words/names, what was yours growing up? Mine was DRake 6.

by Anonymousreply 7703/16/2015

[quote]There is a big market online for old AT&T phones, particularly those built by Western Electric.

This is clearly the reason there are now fakes selling on ebay.

I bought one recently.

Of course the asshole refused to admit it was a fake, down to the cheap fake box it came in and the fact the ringer didn't work.

by Anonymousreply 7803/16/2015

"Emerson6," r77

by Anonymousreply 7903/16/2015

I remember growing up in the 70s how we were taught how important and respected telephone operators were. We were never to bother them. Unless it was an emergency. Never. Plus the thing was the operators were know it alls in an emergency. They'd get you what you needed. It was one of those few rules written in stone. I remember one time we broke it and a few hours later the operator called to speak to my mother about us bothering her. LOL.

The 411 operators were so polite to. If you didn't know the exact spelling of a name they'd offer suggestions. If there were more than one they'd give you the roads to help you narrow it down. We've gained a lot through technology and I know I probably wouldn't want to go back but we have lost something.

Operators in all their glory in 1969

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by Anonymousreply 8003/16/2015

[R79] Sorry to hear that ...

[quote]This is clearly the reason there are now fakes selling on ebay. I bought one recently. Of course the asshole refused to admit it was a fake, down to the cheap fake box it came in and the fact the ringer didn't work.

There are companies online that specifically sell old phones. Not just any old seller on ebay. These companies often sell specific hardware as well, including, for example, the mechanism to have the Princess Phone light when the receiver is raised. These site seem to be run by old AT&T employees or people who know their stuff.

by Anonymousreply 8103/16/2015

It's clear R48 doesn't know anything about the Bell System. They were all about innovation. Bell Labs was heavily funded to create new technology. They developed the transistor, information theory (maths theory by Claude Shannon) that allowed for the development of the computer, electronic music programs, the laser, fiber optics, the 32 byte microprocessor (single chip), and the radio engineering for TDMA and CDMA cellular systems. They also developed many computer products like UNIX, C, and awk. The wireless LAN in your house was also developed by Bell Labs. As a trade off for being a monopoly, the patents were held by Bell Labs, but the use by other companies was often royalty free. Our lives would be way different if the Bell system didn't fund this type of research. In today's world of corporate greed, executives are to shortsighted to fund similar programs.

by Anonymousreply 8203/16/2015

As a former "phone company" employee, I started with NYTEL, went to NYNEX then Bell Atlantic and finally Verizon. The old days were the best, so glad I'm not a part of it anymore.

by Anonymousreply 8303/16/2015

In some places, the switch from hand-crank phones did happen relatively recently.

"Bryant Pond [Maine] achieved some national fame and media attention beginning in the mid-1970s when its family-owned Bryant Pond Telephone Company became the last hand-crank telephone exchange in operation in the United States. In 1981, the two-position magneto switchboard in the living room of owners Barbara and Elden Hathaway, was purchased by the Oxford County Telephone & Telegraph Company, a nearby larger independent company. A movement called "Don't Yank The Crank" was organized by David Perham and Brad Hooper in a valiant but futile effort to keep their beloved crank phones. The effort was not ultimately successful, and the last "crank" calls took place on October 11, 1983, when a modern dial exchange (207-665) was placed in service."

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by Anonymousreply 8403/16/2015

WELLS 5 Here!

If you grew up in the world of Ma Bell you will always remember the rituals of long distance phone calls, it was akin to a moon landing. BE QUIET I'M ON LONG DISTANCE!!!

I STILL have the old Pacbell e-mail address from waaay back when. The techs I talk to for my internet service are always amazed that there is still a address in existence.

Anyone remember busy signals? They died off around the same time as typewriters.

Also, back then the operators had some magical powers to interrupt phone calls for an emergency call or to somehow see if you were actually home.

by Anonymousreply 8503/16/2015

[quote]Anyone remember busy signals? They died off around the same time as typewriters.

Busy signals still exist. If a person does NOT have call waiting,

And there are still many who do not.

by Anonymousreply 8603/16/2015

i remeber when Oregon first got Ma Bell, it was after the movie the Birds, and you got a box of ticandorogro pencils and the areavwhere i lived up in Oregon Bay,near Crater lake . they had a contest where the winner, me, won two love birds. i named them joanie anc chachie. they were so cute cept chachie was a chachet, so they became lesbians. they lived long lives. about 18 years. i miss them to this day.

by Anonymousreply 8703/16/2015

People always talked louder when they were on a "long distance" call. Because it was more important than a regular call.

by Anonymousreply 8803/16/2015

Collect call from Bertha Bugaloo do you care to accept the charges?

by Anonymousreply 8903/16/2015

I only ever saw my father talk on the phone after his parents moved to Florida. He called his mother once a week after that.

Before they moved, he never went near the phone. When it rang, it was never for him. He had no friends and was a working class guy who had no business connections.

He also never made a bed, cooked a meal or bought his own clothes. Not even his underwear.

by Anonymousreply 9003/16/2015

I love that you remember this R89 It was the tried and true way to get a message through without having to pay.

by Anonymousreply 9103/16/2015

[quote]The irony is that MCI who broke up Ma Bell is gone and Ma Bell has reassembled under AT&T.

I knew it wouldn't last.

by Anonymousreply 9203/16/2015

Operator, I've been dialing MUrray Hill 7-0093 now for the last three quarters of an hour and the line is always busy. I don't see how it could be busy that long. Will you try it for me, please?

by Anonymousreply 9303/16/2015

R76, thanks for the great info. I may have known that but I sure have forgotten about subsidizing less profitable company divisions. Those who want in on the market and scream for breaking up monopolies almost always do it for money only and not for the service part of an industry that was a necessary part of the creation of that industry.

I bought a replica 1959 Princess phone so we'll see if it lasts. I just got it for fun for my bedroom desk and it's on my private line so I don't need any features except to call out to my friends. Photo at link. Mine is white.

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by Anonymousreply 9403/16/2015

I kept a phone like this one from my parents' home. We moved in to the house in '64.

Same color and style.

It's in a box in my closet.

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by Anonymousreply 9503/16/2015

It will work forever, r95

Even after a nuclear war.

by Anonymousreply 9603/16/2015

You had to wait until at least evening to call someone long distance, but if at all possible wait until night or weekend.

by Anonymousreply 9703/16/2015

People forget how expensive long distance charges were.

Many older people still feel the need to cut long distance calls short to save money.

ME: Mom, it's FREE, we talk for 6 hours if you want. FREE!

Mom: Are you sure?

by Anonymousreply 9803/16/2015

Do you know that "Ma Bell" was an actual person?

Mabel Gardiner Bell, the wife Alexander Bell, who was completely deaf, she actually owned most of the Bell Telephone Company, her husband gave her stocks as a wedding present. She waqs also hugely accomplished in her own right, known as the "Mother of Canadian Aviation" for funding the first manned flight in Canada

Fascinating woman, who helped make Bell the success he became.

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by Anonymousreply 9903/16/2015

Um, R95, I still have that phone in my bedroom. Of course it's not hideous green, it's white. I live in a condo in DC that had about the last switchboard in at least this city if not the country that used phones like that with a plastic toggle like switch to talk to the switchboard or just use the phone as a phone. When I needed new cords the service guy would remark how they don't make my phone with the switching function anymore and they're hard to find. This was maybe 20 years ago.

The phone company refused to sell me the phone and I stopped paying for it so they tried to get me to buy it then and I refused. I told them it was useless merchandise and after so many years of paying rental and no service on it they should consider it paid for. They left me alone and I never saw anything on my credit sheet that indicated they went after me for it.

by Anonymousreply 10003/16/2015

This thread is highly interesting and what I enjoy about DL.

by Anonymousreply 10103/16/2015

If you are in a decent sized city you may have a telephone museum that is run by the Bell Pioneers (a group of Bell retirees).

by Anonymousreply 10203/16/2015

R80 - so that was interesting to watch. I do recall speaking with operators when I was young - but not often.

The rate for calling Taiwan was $12 for the first 3 minutes and $4 per minute after that. In 1969. That was a FORTUNE!

by Anonymousreply 10303/16/2015

ULster 4 R77

by Anonymousreply 10403/16/2015

Judge Greene was a moron.

by Anonymousreply 10503/16/2015

Sherwood 74

by Anonymousreply 10603/16/2015

[quote] I live in a condo in DC that had about the last switchboard in at least this city if not the country that used phones like that with a plastic toggle like switch to talk to the switchboard or just use the phone as a phone.

I called a wrong number at one of those buildings (Wisconsin near the Cathedral) one night, and the guy who answered said "Miss Dick's line." I said "I'll bet." And we both laughed hysterically. He said, "Yeah, they pay me to say that." Funniest thing I'd ever heard in 1973.

by Anonymousreply 10703/16/2015

R69, the taped line was common. In many regions, AT&T long distance and the baby bell shared facilities. The taped line was not necessarily due to employee tension, but an effort to keep the two entities 'separate'

by Anonymousreply 10803/16/2015

In the Mon Valley, southeast of Pittsburgh, our phone number was ORchard 2; the ones that I also remember were PLymouth 1, NOrth 4, HObart 6, UNderwood 3, VAlley 3 and HAzel 1

Among the telephone numbers in Downtown Pittsburgh were GRant 1 and EXpress 1

One of the best television commercials ever was a 10- or 15-second ad for Bell Telephone. The illuminated clock face in a dark room read 2:30 as a hand picked up phone receiver and one heard a dial tone, reminding viewers as to the reliability of the phone service,

AT&T stock was called the "widows and orphans" stock because it always paid a dividend. AT&T was replaced last week on the Dow Jones Index by Apple.

I hate cell phones. I will grant you that they come in handy in emergency situations, but I hate talking on them, I hate receiving calls from people using them.

I miss the reliability of the phone service that AT&T and the Baby Bells provided. I miss the durability of the Western Electric/AT&T telephones

I am a huge fan of Jimmy Carter, but two of the biggest mistakes of his administration were de-regulating the airlines and forcing the break up of the AT&T system

Remember, Long Distance is the next, best thing to being there

by Anonymousreply 10903/16/2015

Ernestine goes Hollywood.

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by Anonymousreply 11003/16/2015

Did she out Julio Iglesias and Warren Beatty in that clip?

by Anonymousreply 11103/16/2015

Americans STILL have the best landline service in the world, thanks to Ma Bell

by Anonymousreply 11203/16/2015

[quote]I pay $35 for a land line now

I pay $27

by Anonymousreply 11303/16/2015

I'm 32 and I've never had a landline. I don't know any people of my generation who do, unless they work from home.

by Anonymousreply 11403/16/2015

[quote]The rate for calling Taiwan was $12 for the first 3 minutes and $4 per minute after that. In 1969. That was a FORTUNE!

Adjusted for inflation.....

$76.42 for the first 3 minutes and $25.47 per minute after that.

Yes, Long Distance really did cost a fortune.

by Anonymousreply 11503/16/2015

Say what you will about modern technology, but no cell phone can match the sound quality of a good old land line.

by Anonymousreply 11603/16/2015

At the tone, General Telephone time is......3...46.... and 10 seconds


by Anonymousreply 11703/16/2015

[quote]Operator, I've been dialing MUrray Hill 7-0093 now for the last three quarters of an hour and the line is always busy. I don't see how it could be busy that long. Will you try it for me, please?

I didn't get to New York until about then, for some reason, people just used to say MU.7-0093

NYC & Philly were the last cities in America to dial letters, which they ended in the summer of 1978.

There was something quirky about the fact they kept them going for so long. Some things about America were often surprisingly old fashioned to me as an English person (& I loved it).

In 1980, I remember taking a propellor plane from a little, perfectly art deco airport at La Guardia to Martha's Vineyard which at that time didn't even have a proper hotel.

I've got a dreadful snobby NY Times article bemoaning the demise of the old exchanges. I'll try to upload it.

by Anonymousreply 11803/16/2015

I miss these places.

Perfect Americana.

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by Anonymousreply 11903/16/2015

R63, in the small East Texas town where my grandparents lived, you only had to dial the last four digits of a phone number to make a call inside the town. If you wanted to call outside of the town, you had to dial the full 10-digit number, as everything outside of town was long distance. This was in the 1970s and 1980s. I don't know if that's still the case now, as my grandparents are all dead and I haven't been to that town in years.

At my university in the 1980s, if you wanted to make a call from one campus phone to another (e.g., to a dorm room or an office), you dialed only the last five digits of the number. If you wanted to call off campus, you dialed the full 7-digit number. This was a large university in a medium-sized city.

by Anonymousreply 12003/16/2015

I think I scored with more phone installers than any other type of worker.

by Anonymousreply 12103/16/2015

The prefix belonging to my parents was CHerry 2. One set of grandparents was EVergreen 2 and another set of grandparents was WHitehall 9.

by Anonymousreply 12203/16/2015

The real "Ma Bell", Mabel Gardiner Hubbard Bell, was quite the formidable woman, she was the one who pushed Bell into promoting his invention, which may not have happened without her guidance.Mabel was the indirect source of her husband's early commercial success after his creation of the telephone.

The U.S. Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 made Bell's newly invented telephone a featured headline worldwide. Judges Emperor Dom Pedro II of the Empire of Brazil and the eminent British physicist William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) recommended his device to the Committee of Electrical Awards, which voted Bell the Gold Medal for Electrical Equipment. Bell also won a second Gold Medal for Visible Speech, for his additional display at the exposition, helping to propel him to international fame. Ironically, Bell, who was then a full-time teacher, hadn't even planned on exhibiting at the fair due to his heavy teaching schedule and preparation for his student's examinations. He went there only at the stern insistence of Mabel, his then-fiancée and future wife. Mabel had understood Bell's reluctance to go to the exhibition and display his works. She secretly bought his train ticket to Philadelphia, packed his bag, and then took the unknowing Bell to Boston's train station where she told her shocked fiancé that he was going on a trip. When Bell started to argue, Mabel turned her sight away from him, thus becoming literally deaf to his protests.

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by Anonymousreply 12303/17/2015

[quote]YC & Philly were the last cities in America to dial letters, which they ended in the summer of 1978.

I didn't know that

by Anonymousreply 12403/17/2015

[quote]I am a huge fan of Jimmy Carter, but two of the biggest mistakes of his administration were de-regulating the airlines and forcing the break up of the AT&T system

The Bell breakup happened under Reagan.

by Anonymousreply 12503/17/2015

The one thing Reagan got right was busting up Ma Bell.

by Anonymousreply 12603/17/2015

The operator was an unofficial babysitter too. When kids were left home alone for an hour or two there was always the "if anything happens just call the operator".

by Anonymousreply 12703/17/2015

Ma Bell was a technological powerhouse

by Anonymousreply 12803/17/2015

The Bell System presents "America the Beautiful."

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by Anonymousreply 12903/17/2015

It seemed to have exceptional style as a company.

The telephones...all the different designs as they went along, all the wonderful color choices.

The really represented America well, when America led the world with its technology.

The logos were timeless and powerful.

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by Anonymousreply 13003/18/2015


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by Anonymousreply 13103/18/2015

A lot of time must have gone into the physical design of the telephone handset. The way it fits the hand, fits against the ear. How one can cradle it between ear and shoulder to use hands for something else. Ease of repair, etc.

The current cellphones have none of these, are awkwardly shaped, etc. Designed to be discarded.

by Anonymousreply 13203/18/2015

[quote]A lot of time must have gone into the physical design of the telephone handset. The way it fits the hand, fits against the ear. How one can cradle it between ear and shoulder to use hands for something else. Ease of repair, etc.

Yes, you bet, R132.

I once went to an exhibition of the work of, Henry Dreyfuss, the man who designed the phones for Ma Bell. They had on display all his meticulous drawings and little wooden models of the 'phones that he made before they went into production.

He had tremendous style.

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by Anonymousreply 13303/18/2015

A few other things Dreyfuss designed.

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by Anonymousreply 13403/18/2015

[quote]The current cellphones have none of these, are awkwardly shaped, etc. Designed to be discarded.

You can get classic handsets and all sorts of retro stuff for cell phones.

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by Anonymousreply 13503/18/2015

[quote]I had a trimline phone in avacado green when I was a kid.

So you posted a yellow one as an illustration, R15?

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by Anonymousreply 136Last Tuesday at 8:07 AM

Guess what r114? Nobody gives a shit. You probably don't have a decent job either.

by Anonymousreply 137Last Tuesday at 9:01 AM

My dad retired from one of the Bells. The Pioneer's cookbook was the bomb. He worked at Bell Corp in Jersey for a few years. He didn't graduate from High School, but passed some test to join the research facility. After he retired, his pension was 90K a year with health insurance. The phone grid used to be as important as the power grid. I regret not staying there after he got me an internship in the 80s. But the writing was already on the wall by that time. Divestiture had attained its goal.

Ironically, I went to work for a tech company and spent 5 years in UNIX. I had no idea that bell had come up with AWK. AWK and GREP were my bread and butter back in the day.

by Anonymousreply 138Last Tuesday at 9:12 AM

I started work for "the phone company" for one of the regional bells shortly after the breakup by Judge Greene.

You can argue whether or not AT&T should have been broken up but what shouldn't have happened was they way Judge Greene broke it up. He took one huge monopoly and made eight monopolies out of it. The seven regional bells and the old AT&T, none of which competed against each other in anyway. Eventually the seven regional bells were allowed to provide long distance and compete with AT&T which resulted in AT&T's demise and eventual buy out by one of the baby bells, SBC. The baby bells started merging and we ended up with two huge telecommunication companies.

The judge Greene decision resulted in the loss of a lot of very good jobs, making those reliable phones and equipment, and replacing them with very cheap quality phones from Asia. It was the huge knife in the back to manufacturing in the US.

Monopolies can work if they are regulated correctly, AT&T's problem was that they weren't a complete monopoly and when their competitor MCI took them to court, the government decided it would be better to deregulate instead of increased regulation.

by Anonymousreply 139Last Tuesday at 9:20 AM

"MCI took them to court,"

Look at how far that got them. MCI got gobbled up by Verizon (formerly Bell of PA, NJ Bell and C&P Bell, which then ate up NYNEX).

by Anonymousreply 140Last Tuesday at 9:30 AM

R136 = Bump Bitch. Most of the links in this 7 year old thread are dead.

by Anonymousreply 141Last Tuesday at 9:33 AM

When I used to come to America (from London) in those days some parts of L.A. had GTE phones I noticed and they were rather shit in comparison.

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by Anonymousreply 142Last Tuesday at 9:34 AM

[quote][R136] = Bump Bitch. Most of the links in this 7 year old thread are dead.

Sorry about that.

People also insult you if you start a thread about something that's already been talked about.

by Anonymousreply 143Last Tuesday at 9:36 AM

When I was in college, I only called home twice a week because it was expensive long distance. Now college kids talk to their parents multiple times a day.

by Anonymousreply 144Last Tuesday at 9:38 AM

[quote]The Bell System. Was it loved or hated?

sort of both - we loved it and hated it. after the break up we then learned to miss it

by Anonymousreply 145Last Tuesday at 9:39 AM

It was very stylish.

You had a choice of TWO reds!

You think they had that in Moscow?

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by Anonymousreply 146Last Tuesday at 9:44 AM

Ma Bell provided me with a very decent income.

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by Anonymousreply 147Last Tuesday at 9:47 AM

I liked the old Bell system, and missed it when it was broken up. The advantage of land lines was that they still worked if your power was out (as long as you had an old phone).

by Anonymousreply 148Last Tuesday at 9:50 AM

[quote] It was very stylish. You had a choice of TWO reds!

The man who designed those phones for Bell, killed/gassed himself in his car in his garage. Really sad.

He designed all sorts of things.

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by Anonymousreply 149Last Tuesday at 9:57 AM

And this.

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by Anonymousreply 150Last Tuesday at 9:58 AM

Born in 1966 here. I don’t know that anyone really had opinions about it back then - it was basically what everyone had so didn’t feel like a big deal, monopoly notwithstanding.

by Anonymousreply 151Last Tuesday at 9:59 AM

I live in what was a GTE area in the L.A. area. GTE was bought by Verizon, then when Verizon wanted to get out of the landline business, they sold to Frontier. Seems like a dying business, but I'm one of those people who still has a landline (in addition to a mobile.) At least it works when the power goes out. And it's better for 911.

by Anonymousreply 152Last Tuesday at 12:49 PM

In the 80s people began BUYING phones and often they were crappy - you could always tell if someone was speaking on one.

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by Anonymousreply 153Last Tuesday at 1:03 PM

I can still remember the phone number our family had from 1962 to 1972: PE5-8031. The number still exists, so I won't include the area code.

by Anonymousreply 154Last Tuesday at 1:06 PM

It was called Ma Bell because they cared about the workers. I retired from what is now Verizon with an excellent pension and health benefits. And we didn't contribute one penny to either plan.

by Anonymousreply 155Last Tuesday at 3:15 PM

I always have loved the sound and tactile feel of a rotary telephone dial. Sometimes, when I spot an old rotary phone in an antique store, I stop and dial a random seven-digit number just to hear the dial spin and return.

In November 1963, Bell Telephone introduced the Touch-Tone phone, and it became the must-have accessory for Americans conditioned to want to own the latest in home technology. Eventually, the Touch-Tone phone became the standard phone design around the world.

As a kid, I knew from the constant nagging of my mother that using a phone was an expensive proposition, so long conversations were discouraged. And that didn't change much as I entered high school and then college.

Bell Telephone was a monopoly and slow to introduce innovation in design. There were times when I went to a store to buy a phone and was surprised by how limited the choices were. But I miss the telephone booths that were everywhere you went, in both urban and rural areas, and how reliable they were. But I also remember how frustrating it was to have to have enough pocket change to conduct the average call.

So I called my parents "collect" a lot. What was "collect"? You dialed the operator, told her (it was always a woman) you wanted to make a collect call, and she would dial the number. When the call connected, the operator would tell my parents (or whoever) that I was calling and will they accept the charges? The answer, of course, was always "yes."

by Anonymousreply 156Last Tuesday at 7:49 PM
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