> Mike Sakowitz Twomey wrote:
>> What memories I have on a 608. I was in high school and happened to
>> find a newspaper ad for a telephone operator in a large city hospital.
>> Since I had always been fascinated with switchboards and telephone
>> equipment this was a job that I had to have. I was only 16 and this
>> was 1979.
> Thanks for the report.
> Did you have any trouble getting the job because of your youth or
> gender, especially in a large installation?
> Around 1973-74 the Bell System and employers slowly began to accept
> the idea of male switchboard operators. Before that it was strictly a
> female job. The only exceptions were rough environments, such as a
> police station or waterfront warehouse. I think the boys hired then
> were ex-military with signal corps experience.
> There were boys from an all-boys high school who were interested in
> such jobs (they learned on their school's 555 PBX) but in those days
> found a brick wall because of age and gender. Most companies -- large
> and small -- took their PBX jobs very seriously. Big companies
> wouldn't break with tradition. Small companies wanted a girl since
> receptionist type jobs were women. Young people weren't perceived as
> being responsible enough for a large board, although they could get
> jobs in very small places, where perhaps working the switchboard was
> only part of the duties.
>> We also learned that we could take a front cord and connect it to an
>> extension jack then depress the "ring front" key and we could almost
>> press out a tune.
>> I could go on and on. I miss that service and the days of
>> switchboards. I was lucky, even then that 608 was considered very
>> dated but since we had it doing very advanced things (tandem lines,
>> long distance billing, conference calls) the powers that were decided
>> that the 608 was the only acceptable board for us until 1983.
> I would not call the 608 "dated", it was the most advanced cord board
> the Bell System offered. There were plenty of older models in service
> in those years. I think what killed the cord board was economics--the
> cost of purchasing and maintaining electronics -- like the Dimension
> PBX -- came down enough that they were competitive with cord boards.
> With all its automation, I don't think the 608 was cheap.
> A big disadvantage of cord boards was that they required two
> operations per call while a console required only one. With cord
> boards, you had to pull the cords down at the end of the call, a
> console disconnected automatically.
> If your employer was a large organization, it probably went Centrex
> which eliminated a lot of traffic.
> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: But before female operators there were
> men (mostly young boys) doing it. I am referring to the 1880-1900
> era. Bell got rid of the young guys because they said the customers
> complained that the younger guys were rude and crude. PAT]
In 1971 I was injured on the job in the CO, so GTE to avoid a loss
time injury put me in the business office in West LA. At the time
there were only women working there, with a very few men as upper
level managers since it was also a division and sales office. At
first I just did files of the old paper bills; way before computers,
then I started dealing with calls from other business offices needing
information on calls and such, plus pulling information when law
enforcement needed something.
One day things got busy so the office manager put me live in the
rotary to receive customer calls. Customers were surprised to hear a
male voice, but for the short time I did this before going back to my
regular CO job, both the employees in the office and the customers got
used to it. One time a customer got really mad and wanted to talk to
a supervisor, when the supervisor came on the call, he still was made
and wanted to to to a higher level. They put me on the line; there
was no other managers around; with just a few seconds going by the
customer slowed down and explained the problem, which the supervisor
who was on the call with me took care of and the customer was very
happy. I really respect the customer contact people in all
departments it is a very hard job to do.
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