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March 30, 2003 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Bell System Memorial. State approved, centrally planned and controlled: no, not this, the old Bell System. Don't miss the photos (including the first car phone!) and ads (sometimes ironic). Offsite: the affiliated Telephone Tribute, a few old Bell ads from the Prelinger archives, and an entertaining US telephony history from Bruce Sterling's famous Hacker Crackdown.
posted by tss (4 comments total)

 
and shortly after the first car phone...

posted by quonsar at 2:36 PM on March 30, 2003


now thats comedy.
posted by clavdivs at 3:36 PM on March 30, 2003


The Museum of Independent Telephony is a great little museum in the wonderful little town of Abeline, KS.
posted by sp dinsmoor at 3:54 PM on March 30, 2003


What a great post! My father used to work for the GPO (General Post Office) when it ran the UK's telephone system. It ran along similar lines to Bell, and added all the classic British traits of massively over-engineering everything.

He tells tales of custom-made parts for every facet of a job, GPO-specified ladders, GPO-cable ties, even GPO-toolkits. He still has a leather 1977 tool bag they had made especially, with holders for all their specially made tools, like "81s" (wirecutters).

Neal Stephenson mentions the glory days of British over-engineering in Cryptonomicon, when he talks of phone booths that look as if there has recently been a spate of nuclear bombardments in the area they've been designed to withstand and mentions an early intercom that looks as if it's been cast from a solid ingot. Only four in the whole country at that price of manufacture, but you just know they'll last a hundred years.

When people talk wistfully of the Britain that was, this is partly the mindset they're describing - the same mindset that led to the creation of the most fantastically baroque sewerage system in London - cost millions and caused immensive upheaval for the Victorians, still works today.
posted by bonaldi at 7:53 PM on March 30, 2003


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