Q. I'm a Qwest customer and I am always impressed with its operators. Who are these people, what equipment do they use, and where are they located?
A. (From J.R. Snyder Jr. (internal link) They're probably long time employees using long developed technology. There's an alphabet soup of abbreviations to discuss here, so if you get confused, go to my pages on operator assistance. (internal link)
"Automating operator assistance duties dates back to the late 1950s, with most telcos finishing this process by the late 1970s. AT&T's Traffic Service Position System combined dedicated consoles and custom written software to handle most operator duties."
"For a technology that took many years to develop, TSPS was short lived operationally. Western Electric, now Lucent, developed TSPS consoles for well over a decade and it was in wide spread use for all practical purposes only from 1976 to 1985. Western Electric was totally focusing on it while Northern Electric, now Nortel, was developing Toll Operator Position Systems to replace TSD consoles (Toll Services Desk). They put those in operation in the late 60's and early 70's in over half of their Toll Centers. Although Northern had placed them into service earlier than TSPS, they were more manual than TSPS but far less manual than cord switchboards. TOPS was a PC application as opposed to a console using a dedicated UNIX system and U S WEST placed them into service in 1984, immediately after Divestiture. In fact they were installed in 1983 and sat in waiting until Divestiture."
Early TSPS consoles (click to enlarge)
"What evolved out of that was a Windows based software that handles toll (long distance), Directory Assistance, "Agent" calls (calls from other telcos that use U S WEST (Qwest) as their operator services company) and answers each states main U S WEST (Qwest) switchboard number and other numbers for U S WEST (Qwest) itself (employee locator, general questions, etc.). U S WEST is now Qwest but they are the same employees and centers."
"More than likely the operators your visitor is referring to are in Midvale, UT and they use the PC based Nortel system that replaced TOPS. On occasion the calls may overflow to Tempe AZ, Pueblo CO or Helena MT. Tempe handles primarily Arizona, Pueblo handles primarily Colorado and some of NM and WY, while Helena handles the eastern Qwest states and is a back up to all the other centers. Midvale and Helena are the top performing centers, known for their efficiency and courtesy, and as the traffic decreases they are the two most likely to remain. Many of their employees are 15-30 years operator service veterans who started out on cord Toll and Assistance switchboards and paper Directory Assistance." For more information, see this page (internal link).