I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to those who made
the Western Union Technical Review available on this newsgroup. It
has a lot of interesting material.
I had a pre-conceinved notion that Western Union was somehow a
"backward" company due to its financial, labor, and government
problems over the years. However, the Tech Rev demonstrates they were
certainly state of the art.
The earliest issues (1948) describe among other things:
1) Automated switching of messages -- sophisticated automated
equipment to route messages throughout their national network. The
new switching offices pictured were very modern.
2) Increasing transmission capacity on ocean cables: These challenges
weren't much different than those today of squeezing more bandwidth.
To my surprise, they had synchronous protocols as well as asynchronous
(start-stop) back then.
3) Attempts to develop fibre optic transmission.
4) Development of microwave transmission.
Issues of the 1960s dealt with computerization and those challenges
were the same as today.
Much of the stuff was overhead my head technically. But the terms and
concepts were similar to what is used in Bell System histories.
I would love to find rate cards for the cost of telegrams in the post
war era as well as long distance telephone calls. I'm curious to find
the 'tipping point' when the cost of toll calls dropped and the cost
of telegrams went up so that it became cheaper to phone than wire. My
guess is that occured in the early 1960s. I'm also curious as to the
volume of telegrams and toll calls, such as when Western Union's peak
year of messages occured.
My local newspaper today had an article on the decline of the Howard
Johnson's restaurant chain -- the very few remaining sites are
declining. Chains such as HoJo and Horn & Hardart suffered from both
changes in consumer taste as well as poor management. It's hard to
say which came first.
Oslin's book is not complementary to most Western Union management
teams, the FCC, or the AT&T. He blamed high AT&T rates and their TWX
competition for hurting WU.
By the way, Oslin noted that WU received a big discount from AT&T.
But when MCI came on the scene, it demanded the same discount for
interconnections. AT&T responded by eliminaing WU's discount, and
that hurt WU a lot.
I know many old-time chain restaurants could survive on low rent, but
when their leases expired and rent shot up they were forced to close.
Who knows, maybe 50 years from now our kids will be remincising about
the 'once powerful' Microsoft or IBM.
[public replies please]
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Or, the 'once powerful Bell System and
AT&T'. Or maybe they will recall the days when Usenet group moderators
actually had news groups virtually free of spam and were not threatened
with having _their_ mail service shut off because of efforts _they_
made to fight against spam. Or maybe they will recall when there used
to be a powerful entity on the net called 'ICANN' whose leaders were
all so rotten to the core that spam was allowed to flourish unhindered,
and how when the day finally arrived that spam and scam consumed about
90 percent of the resources and bandwidth that moderators finally did
what ICANN had hoped for all along, threw up their hands in disgust
and walked away, abandoning all the remaining newsgroups, giving ICANN
the 'perfect excuse' to hand it all over to commercial sites. PAT]