TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Old Party-Line Arrangements

Re: Old Party-Line Arrangements

William Warren (
Mon, 07 Feb 2005 08:06:46 -0500

Paul Coxwell wrote:

> I'm interested in getting some more detailed historical information on
> the way party-lines were arranged years ago.

> Here in Britain with our relatively small area and comparatively high
> density of population, a two-way line was the norm with ringing
> applied to tip or ring and bells connected from one side of the line
> to a local ground. Outgoing calls used a ground-start method, with
> subscribers having to press a button to obtain dialtone. (As even
> local calls were charged, this method enabled the C.O. to determine
> the originating party at the outset.)

In the Bell System, ground start was never used for residential
service. On two-party lines, the "tip" party would be wired with the
ringer (and, on occasion, a portion of the hybrid coil) connected
between the tip lead and ground, without an isolating capacitor, to
allow the CO to determine the billing party. If there was current flow
to ground, then the "tip" party was making the call.

I worked in a 5XB office once: IIRC, tips vs. ring id was made by the
originating marker, but all other billing decisions were handled in
the mainframes after the paper tape rolls had been sent out for
offline processing.

I never worked on multi-line phones; they weren't available in my area
when I was in the CO. However, I remember that we had a few "legacy"
four-party lines, and I think (Again, IIRC) that billing was handled
by CAMA operators asking for the originating number during billable



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