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Operator Please

My father managed the local Telephone Exchange

I grew up with visits to the local Telephone Exchange.My father was the manager and often would need to go in to fix a fault in the weekend or after hours.As kids we used to love going with him.As you walked into the main control room you would find row upon row of coloured wires, flashing lights and strange clicking and grinding noises which played a tune in an unplanned rhythm throughout the room as people dialed out..We got used to walking between the rows with the sudden noises sounding off at any given moment.I can still imagine it like I was there today.

Dad used to bring home the colour wires which were candy striped for us to make things with.And we had great fun playing with the two old coffin style phones that dad set up, one in the hall cubboard and one in our bedroom so we could dial each other up.The kids used to come over from the other houses in the street to have fun with them too.

I often wonder what dad would think today if he was alive to see how the communication technology has spiraled to a whole new level since then.He died 23 years ago while in his early 50's.

I worked as a Toll Operator

Keeping it in the family.When I was 17 I worked as a local Toll Operator.We serviced a large rural area and would have transferred 100's of people through to Toll numbers each shift.There was a line of up to 15 operators working at any one time.We would plug into flashing lights on a big switch board, answer tolls here then number please and then with another cord plug in and connect them through.We recorded each call on a piece of card and were observed around the clock by a supervisor that sat behind us.There was never time to listen into conversations although just by a flick of a switch you could have.We went through 3 weeks of training before we could join the main crew we were well aware of what we could do and what would bring our employment to an end.The pay was better than anywhere else and you valued your job.We rotated 2 shifts day starting at 6.30 and afternoon starting at 2.30. 7 days a week.We had a couple of days off every 7 days or so then would switch to the other shift.The older and more experienced operators covered the night shift on their own taking turns

.At any time a red flashing light and alarm would come up in front of us. It would usually mean there had been an accident, there was a fire or someone needed an ambulance and we were all trained to instantly plug in so first in took the call and the supervisor would plug in beside you while you took details and dialed the appropriate emergency service.We were in big trouble if we took too long or made a mistake so it could play on your nerves when the emergency lights went off.

I remember at this time there were also a couple of rural properties that still had a party line.That I thought would be terrible because you could only ring out when no other house on your line was on the phone and anyone could listen in.No privacy.

Nobody could ring out of the area without going through us first.I still find it incredible because I am now in my early 40,s and all this was not long ago.

Only just yesterday.

Wires and flashing lights.Toll operators were workng like this not so long ago.
Wires and flashing lights.Toll operators were workng like this not so long ago.
The style of phone kept changing much like the phones and mobiles of today.
The style of phone kept changing much like the phones and mobiles of today.
This coffin style phone is similar to the ones we played with as a kid at home.
This coffin style phone is similar to the ones we played with as a kid at home.
Remember the dial phones -Now these were cool.
Remember the dial phones -Now these were cool.

Do you remember.

As a kid we always had the dial phone.I really do think that is my favourite over all.It was always reliable and had a great ring and I loved dialing a number on it .I recently came across one of these phones and I couldn't help but dial a number just like we used too.

Today the house phone is a push button running off power.With all it,s fancy gadgetry it holds nothing compared to the straight forward old dial phone.And it soon goes flat if left lying around.But mainly is useless if the power is off for too long.That has been the case with us a couple of times in past years as we have had some rather severe storms wiping power out for days .And just recently with the earthquake in Christchurch everyone was being asked to donate any old phones that plug straight into the phone jack and don't need power.I don't think that modern technology is always an improvement.

Suddenly the phone goes mobile

I can't remember exactly when this started but this form of communication soon took off like a rocket.It started with the brick mobile that looks really silly now when sometimes you watch older movies and they use them.Perhaps the idea came from Maxwell Smarts shoe phone who knows.But they fine tuned and added more detail forever turning the wheel to improve and find a reason to make everyone dump their present phone for the new model.It became a fashion statement. or a look what I have and transformed the way we do things, possibly more than any other technology.

The teenagers were suddenly addicts.The phone company's profits must have soured.What have they done to our kids.I often wonder when young kids start their first job .What is the first thing that they go out and buy.I'm betting for many it is a new mobile and they probably just pay it off in time to buy a new model.Totally hooked into the system they are.

I am not immune to being infected by this recent craze. I have been known to feel a little anxious myself when I go out and forget my phone.Funny it never used to bother me.I even wrap it in plastic and take it out on the boat if I go fishing.It is like a security blanket and you can't relax and feel safe anymore if you don't have it on you.So somewhere and somehow the mobile phone has moved in to our everyday thoughts and lives and maybe there is no turning back.

I myself do not use my phone that often but will say they are great to have in an emergency and have saved a few people in the past so they should be given some credit for that.

Future-Where is it all going to end up.Well I think sooner or later we will wear our phones like watches and maybe even talk live to people via video.Maybe even instead of texting the phone will record your voice message, convert it to text form then send it.There is one thing for sure at the speed its advancing we won"t have long to wait.It will soon be even more to offer with added bells and whistles games, video , photography,Internet usage emails TV movies It may even turn the oven on before you get home for T

In the mean time I think I might just keep my old phone for as long as I can and wait.Then invest in the latest when it has advanced as far as it can go.Or at least to the point that I can still understand how to use it.Even now I know a lot of older people who struggle to use them.I guess my day will come too.

The future.

Teenager and the mobile phone-good or bad

Is the mobile phone changing our teenagers lives for the better or the worse.

  • Better-It helps them communicate more freely.
  • Worse-They are more anti-social while they sit around texting.
  • Not effecting them at all.
See results without voting

Just for fun

I found a fun site where they had a phone picture competition so I put this in for fun.Please note I found a couple of the pictures a little gory so be prepared to flick quickly to the next one.

View funny phone pictures here

Comments 4 comments

jponiato profile image

jponiato 5 years ago from Mid-Michigan

I remember the good old days of rotary phones, and even the early push-button phones used only the power available from the phone lines, so they still worked even if the electricity was out.


cangetthere profile image

cangetthere 5 years ago from New Zealand Author

Yes,I missed out on using the older push button phones.I do like the security of having a phone that doesn,t need to be charged and need added power.Have been caught in storms and had no power for a couple of days a few times in the last couple years.It's no fun.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, my mum was a 'Teli op' girl in the second world war, she was in the Airforce, and used to sit there moving all the wires etc around, she told me all about it, the worse place she worked was just as the war was finishing, they put her in an old spooky mansion with no curtains in the middle of the night on her own! ha ha I don't think I could have done it, but she loved it, she was mainly on all the air bases across England and used to watch the spitfires coming in, she said it was the best job, not only for being in the airforce, but for using the phones! cheers nell


cangetthere profile image

cangetthere 5 years ago from New Zealand Author

Thanks Nell,Good on your mum.It would have been interesting during the war.Love to have ago at that secret wireless stuff.Oh for the old days.

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