- Mon May 10, 2010 2:38 am #20756
The oldest telecommunications used an operator sitting at a switchboard. You would lift the ear piece off the hook on your phone and then turn a crank. The crank was connected to a magneto and it generated a current in the phone line that lit a light on the switchboard. The operator would plug into a jack under the light and talk to you. You would tell her who or where you wanted to call and she would connect you to the number you wanted. If you were calling long distance; she would connect you to the long distance operator or take your information and hang up. She would get the call setup through any number of switchboards, then call you back. She would handle time and charges so you were billed for the long distance charges. And you were probably sharing your telephone line with several other families. That was called a party line and typically you would share it with 3 other homes. There were single lines(private lines) but usually only the richer people could afford them and then it depended on if there actually a line available. I have heard of up to 16 parties on a single line, but that was very rare. Each party had it's own ring pattern. One party might be two short rings, another two long rings, still another a long and a short and etc. You had to listen to the rings to know if the call was for you or some else. Ease dropping on the line was considered rude and nosy, but it did happen. So no it was not a very easy process. A far cry from a cell phone.