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June 25, 2004

More comments by Smarty Jones (internal link)

Many cities now use "311" as a non-emergency number. Our resident dispatcher Smarty Jones says this service can be badly implemented, endangering lives. In his area lower paid and less professional people will now answer, during the day, what bureaucrats think are less needy calls. In reality the truth is something else:

"Bluntly, this is stupid. My experiences and of the people who have been in our County 911 Comm since it began over 20 years ago is this: we answer both emergency and non-emergency calls and should keep doing so. Yes it's true as the article says, that we get about 45% non-emergency calls on 911. What they fail to mention is that ON THE NON-EMERGENCY LINES, we get about 45% ACTUAL emergencies. It all depends on the knowledge and nature of the caller. So what's going to happen to these 311 operators (who are lower paid operators and not Public Safety Telecommunicators and less trained) when they get these 45% real emergencies? Delay the call and transfer it to 911? The public is going to be more confused than it already is. I won't even mention how many calls we get for 411 (DA), 511 (road and traffic) and 611 (telephone company general number) on 911."

June 21, 2004

Automating operator duties, 1974. Nortel's offering described by their patent here. (internal link)

June 20, 2004

ZDnet reports that Nokia is paying Mozilla to produce a cell phone web browser. That's great, I like Mozilla and Netscape, and I hope they make a good product, but this work wasn't necessary and the wireless internet is years behind where it should be.

Text based browsers like Links supplied a fairly zippy net even on a 2400 baud modem. There were no images or applets or Java to load. When graphic browsers like Mosaic and then Netscape came along many web sites built text based and graphic based versions. A working wireless web was still possible. But most sites then focused solely on graphics, with increasingly complex code. The landline net went forward, the wireless internet went backward.

Instead of a simple, fast, functional version of the internet for wireless, developers made strange hybrids like WAP. (internal link) Now they seem bent on porting the same bloated internet you see on a landline to narrowband wireless. Good luck. The wild popularity of SMS, text messaging, and the continued success of Google text based ads shows that non-graphical approaches still work. If sites supplied text based and graphic based versions I think we could develop Links as a wireless web browser and go back to where we left off. Nine years late.

June 19, 2004

Here's an interesting if advanced page (internal link) on operator duties before their tasks became fully automated. Written by J. R. Snyder Jr., it's not yet complete. I'm working to annotate, illustrate, and link it up to the other pages on operator services (internal link). Perhaps in a few days it will be finished. Pardon, for now, the funky formatting.

June 17, 2004


I was a TSPS operator in the early to mid 80s. It was the funnest job I've ever had. I am still interested in the science and history behind TSPS (internal link), including regional and company variations of the console layout.

I worked in two different GTE offices, Indio CA and Beaverton OR, where the operating procedures were essentially the same, with minor variations. Key placement and verify worked differently, Beaverton's TSPS would not time a dial rate calling card call initiated by an operator, and so on.

GTE-NW had two tiny offices, La Grande and Coos Bay, that used a very old semi automated system called TSD or Toll Service Desk, I believe made by Nor-Tel. I never hear about it nor can I find anything on the web about it. When they called us at Beaverton Inward the Coos Bay operators were somewhat limited in what they could do with it.

Why did I leave? I left operator services because I enjoyed all the lamps and pushing all those keys. I figured OSPS would be too tame and mundane for me.


Thanks for the e-mail. In the mid 1980s Beaverton was a toll center using an ESS switch. La Grande and Coos Bay were also toll centers, but both used crossbar. It's reasonable to assume the older XB switch limited services compared to the more modern ESS, hence the limits of the Toll Service Desk equipment.

Haven't found anything about TSD on the web? Hmm. Northern Electric, then Northern Telecom, now Nortel, is a Canadian company and Canadian patents (external link) are fairly easy to search. I keyed in the words "Northern Telecom" and "Toll Service Desk" and got Patent #946499, the illustrations of which go well over 100 pages in .pdf. If you want the explanatory text then select the "Disclosures" button to get another .pdf. Here's the TSD console layout from that patent:


(Huge file to make the keys readable)

Compare and contrast to the Bell System console for TSP or Traffic Service Position:

Also a very large file.

June 16, 2004

J.R. Snyder Jr. (internal link) relates his experiences with US West, and the changing of operator culture: US West experiences (internal link)

June 14, 2004

Digital wireless basics logo

Click on image or here to download

But wait. There's more. The digital wireless basic series is now out on .pdf. (internal link to download file.) It includes the too long section on wireless history. Funky formatting but printable. 1.7 megs.

June 13, 2004

Cell basics pdf logo

Click on image or here to download

Here it is! Because of many, many requests. The entire Cellular Basics series in .pdf. (internal link to open or download file.) It's 90 pages, and a 1.7 meg download. Do you really need it in this form? Most of us print out a .pdf once and then never look at it again. Your decision.

June 10, 2004

Distracted by things other than web work. Perhaps a new page Friday afternoon.

June 9 2004

"Likewise, today, our telephone industry is selling so many colored telephones that we are beginning to wonder what we will do with all the black telephones." Donald C. Power, President of General Telephone Corporation, 1956

The following from Don Kimberlin (internal link), on Peninsular Telephone:

Peninsular purchased telephone subscriber sets where ever they could. You'd find a Stromberg phone in one house, an Automatic Electric in another, and even the odd WECO subset in some. Life in Peninsular, though it must have been disorganized, must also have been rather pleasant. I can recall when the Pink Princess Phone hit the nation, with proud full-page color ads in Life magazine, how one of my neighbors called a low-ranking friend in Peninsular to say they'd really like to have one of those "pink phones." A short time later, a Peninsular repairman showed up at their house, carrying one, telling them how he'd been sent to Tampa to buy one at the Graybar supply house and to install it in their house. No charges for install or rental ever showed on their bill.

Well, after a few years, GTE's Whiz-Bang Gang from Ohio, the telephone business' equal to The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, discovered they had a heap of mongrel phones on their hands, so they set about replacing every "non-standard" phone in the area with a "GTE standard" phone. You know that meant an Automatic Electric phone, of course. GTE Florida bought so many phones that Automatic Electric had to build a warehouse and plant in St. Petersburg. The Gods of GTE in Stamford beamed down upon their newfound corporate largesse in Tampa Bay. For a while.

Corporate soon realized they had a huge warehouse full of "non-standard" phones. They might have been "non-standard," but they all worked and the public knew that! GTE ran ads in the paper offering the removed phones for sale at 50 cents each. They'd even give you a new cordset if the one on the phone was frayed. About six months later, newspapers reported that GTE was alarmed to find out there were thousands and thousands of" illegal extension phones" in houses throughout the territory. Hmm. I wonder how that happened? Don. K.

To take a look at how the Bell System dealt with their used phones click here (internal link).

June 8, 2004

Click to enlarge

1973 Washington Post photograph. Used pending permission. The image shows a mock up of a wrist telephone. I can't tell if this is a real company, or more likely a group arranged to show what people would be working on in the future.

June 7, 2004

Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004) was an American first, a politician second. A good man, he made us feel better about ourselves and our country. He never entered the Oval Office without wearing a coat and tie. George Baker says only two things made Reagan angry: people criticizing Nancy Reagan, and times when a broken schedule made people wait. Respect and decency are what we expect in others, we absolutely deserve it in our presidents. Bill Clinton once refused to say whether a President should be a role model for America's youth. President Reagan would have strongly disagreed, saying, "Yes, yes they should be a role model." He was.

June 6, 2004


Cirque, Plate II, Jazz (color stencil in gouache) Henri Matisse 1864-1954 National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew S. Keck

"Wheelchair bound for the last 13 years of his life, the French artist Henri Matisse was unable to paint and was prepared for death. Instead, he returned to making paper cutouts, a technique he had used earlier for stage decorations, and created some of the world's most life affirming artwork. What do you see in this picture? How did the artist arrange colors and shapes to make a beautiful design?" Wachowiak and Clements, Emphasis Art, Fifth edition, Harper Collins (1993)

Ronald Reagan (1911 to 2004) was an American first, a politician second. He made people feel better about their country and themselves. An honest if stern man, Reagan was hated by the media and militant left, a small group who for eight years sought new ways each day to publicly humiliate him. He did not return their insults.

June 5, 2004

Don Kimberlin (internal link) read the article below on telephones and the LBJ ranch and contributed his chance encounter stories about LBJ and Nixon. Click here, they are at the bottom of the page. (internal link)

June 4, 2004

What drives science?

Victorian philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead (1861 -1947) contended that human curiosity alone could not explain continued scientific research. Something else was needed: broadly rational and predictable results. If two lizards looked the same from the outside but had completely different organs on the inside, indeed, if the anatomy of every lizard you found differed, then after a while science would stop.

Continued arbitrary and capricious results do not make for explainable events. There must be a rational answer at some point to justify a rational search. And a knowledge that consistent discovery transcends individual men and their specific results. You may think what Mendel or Darwin found was right, but will that thought help you when you are working outside their field, constructing a table of elements? A larger, all encompassing faith in nature, not just men, is needed. What does this imply? Easily put, an ordered universe bespeaks an ordered God. These quotes are from Whitehead's1925 book "Science and The Modern World."

"When we compare this tone of thought in Europe with the attitude of other civilisations when left to themselves, there seems but one source for its origin. It must come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher. Every detail was supervised and ordered: the search into nature could only result in the vindication of the faith in rationality. . . "

"In Asia, the conceptions of God were of a being who was either too arbitrary or too impersonal for such ideas to have much effect on instinctive habits of mind. Any definite occurrence might be due to the fiat of an irrational despot, or might issue from some impersonal, inscrutable order of things. There was not the same confidence in the intelligible rationality of a personal being . . ."

"The faith in the order of nature which has made possible the growth of science is an example of a deeper faith. This faith cannot be justified by any inductive generalisation. It springs from direct inspection of the nature of things as disclosed in our own immediate present experience. There's no parting from your own shadow."

"To experience this faith is to know that in being ourselves we are more than ourselves; to know that our experience, dim and fragmentary as it is, yet sounds the uttermost depths of reality: to know that detached details merely in order to be themselves demand that they should find themselves in a system of things: to know that this system includes the harmony of logical rationality, and the harmony of aesthetic achievement: to know that, while the harmony of logic lies upon the universe as an iron necessity, the harmony stands before it as a living ideal moulding the general flux in its broken progress towards finer, subtler issues."

June 3, 2004

Newsweek had a special series on wireless. Well done mindless speculation. I question the history section, though, too many people clamor for print and the media often wants to credit a single person for inventions that were developed by many. Still, good writing.

What did people do before mobile phones? They installed many, many landline telephones, especially for the president. Two telephone companies provided service to LBJ's Texas Ranch. Johnson's people wanted a phone to be within two minutes of the president at any time, even on his sprawling personal property. This nice little article describes how they did it. (internal link.)

June 2, 2004

Automatic Electric dial. 1966.

What do you call the symbol on the lower right? Instead of the # sign, called variously the Octothorpe, pound, or square sign, here we have, the what? It's from a 1966 Automatic Electric telephone, model unknown. Click to enlarge. I'd call it a diamond. The star and diamond are certainly better looking than what we have today.

June 1, 2004

I hope you had a good holiday. Today I won't be doing web work, rather, I am cleaning house, getting ready for family to visit tonight. But I have been working on some new pages. One is on selling your cellular site lease (internal link) and the second is with J.R. Snyder Jr., about operator history during the 60s through the early 1980s. See you tomorrow.

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