In the autumn of 1983, I started my career in the hotel business as a phone operator.
The switchboard looked something like this, but I think we had about 30 pairs of cables:
Oh dear, that looks almost as unorganized as I was
The main hotel in the very centre of my home town had just built an annex, with another 100 hotel rooms, adding up to a total of 228 rooms.
It took a few months before a new, modern switchboard was delivered and installed, and we had been trained how to use it, but until then, we we're stuck with this sorrily underdimensioned board.
I did wonder why the quite experienced operator that taught me how to use the old board always started out with the couple of cables at each end of the board, working her way in.
Until one day, I found out exactly why...
See, we had only 10 ingoing and 10 outgoing lines. When someone called our external phone number, a small lamp would flicker, with a clicking sound, above one of the jacks for incoming calls.
Likewise, if someone in the house wanted to make a call, they dialled 0, which would set off one of the extension jacks. And if they dialled 9, it was a steady light, and I'd reply to it. Elder people often used this method to get an outside line, by asking me for it, rather than trusting the method of dialling 0.
You'd pull up a pair of cables (the ones closest to the jack in question was my habit), insert one to reply to the call and insert the other to the jack to an extension in the house for incoming calls, or an outgoing line jack for outgoing.
And then pull up (or was it push down?) a lever in front of the cable pair.
It was a busy morning, Friday I think it was, because several calls were incoming, to reserve a table in our dance restaurant.
The calls kept coming, and - before I knew it - I had used up all the cables! This was the moment I realized my colleague's technique - she'd always make sure that the cable pair in the middle were free to use rather than stuck into the board.
I tore my hair and begged out loud for someone, anyone, to finally hang up while the lamps kept flicking and clicking angrily at me.
When I finally got a cable pair, I quickly responded to all of them, politely, in my best 'telephonista' voice that either 'all incoming lines are busy right now, please try again later' or 'all outgoing lines are busy right now, please try again later'.
On top of all, when I checked back to one of the calls parked in the 'on hold' jacks, waiting to get through to the headwaiter, I discovered that I had forgotten to pull/push the lever, because the two people on hold could hear each other and had happily started chatting away. How unprofessional of me!
Also, in those days, people would send telegrams, aided by the phone operator. At first I used a sort of home made Alfa, Bravo, Tango system but, after having been snubbed by a snotty telegram person, I learnt the Swedish version by heart. I think it's still in there, somewhere *ponder*
Adam, Bertil, Caesar, David, Erik, Filip, Gustav, Harald, Ivar, Johan, Kalle...
And businessmen used to order their international calls from the operator as well. They'd give me the number they wanted, I called the national switchboard for the country in question, where that operator in her turn (don't think I ever came across a male one) would call the number.
I'd hear them both, the operator usually saying something along the line of 'you have an incoming call from Mr X in Sweden, do you accept it?'
If the reply was 'yes' (and it mostly was) the other operator would tell me 'your call is ready, putting it through right now' and I could talk to the receiving person directly, usually saying 'please hold' while I called the 'caller' up and, making sure both the caller and receiver could hear me, say 'your call is ready sir, connecting you now' and then pushing/pulling the lever , letting them know I had bowed out graciously (if I didn't, there'd be a ticking sound in the background, that's how you knew if someone was listening in).
Some meticulous foreign operators would be 'listening in' as far as I did, to make sure the call went through alright.
In those days, you took pride in your profession and a work done well - something that seems to be sorrily amiss these days.
|Subject: 1983: Telephone switchboard, old fashioned model|
Posted Mar 1, 2012 by Icy North
This is a reply to this Posting.
Thank you so much for this, Titania. I loved reading about your first job I can imagine how flustered you would get if you ran out of cables!
Maybe we could see if others might like to write about their first jobs for the h2g2 Post
We still have a switchboard like this, Ti, only now it's parked in our hallway for decorative purposes only
Back in 1974 when I first started w*rking here we also had an intercom-system which could be very annoying if you were on the phone with a source when a colleague contacted you and kept yelling "hello, are you there, answer me you !"
Heh, we had those too, but there was a small button at the bottom, so that if you picked it up (it was formed like an oversized phone receiver) or laid it on its side, you could only hear the person if you put your ear to it.
The inter com system was connected with our pagers. So if someone was paging you, you'd use an intercom to find out who. Couldn't use a regular phone for that - not back then...
I w*rked for another newspaper for a short while back in the early 70's.
There were a kind of "traffic lights" hung in every office and corridor there, looking very much like dices.
If my department got a phone call three of the six lights would be lighted and one of us would then go to the nearest phone and take the call. (Maybe there were 9 lights? I can't remember, but that would have made sense)
Anyway, these lights could either be constant or blinking fast or slow so there were lots of combinations and the system w*rked very well
Not a concept I'm familiar with - maybe you should write an entry on it?
I'm no technophobe, but what a joy to see one of those old switchboards again should never gone out of use, I like the look,feel,smell of them and the smell of an old amp warming up it valves ahhhh!
Not until I'm retired, Ti. At the earliest
That will be 334 days, 9 hours, 41 minutes and 27 seconds from now
Not that you're counting or anything
Darn Amy, I was refraining so hard not to mention that I was a mere kid in the early 70ies - now you've gone and spoilt it!
Well, someone already retired could've made the comment
*doesn't mention that she was in diapers in the mid70s *
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