Menu

FCC Commissioners Gone Wild

You may think the following is fear mongering about what will happen when net-neutrality is lost. But things like these stories happened in the 1920s when there was no net-neutrality in the telecommunications network…a problem so serious that in 1934…

Ma Bell and Sandia Labs

All of the United States’ nuclear weapons are designed at Sandia National Laboratories. The role of Sandia is usually described as “Projects Vital to the security of the United States.” But you don’t really have to dig very far to…

How Old Phone Systems Knew your Number

How did central offices know your phone number? This sounds like a stupid, obvious question. But it was remarkably complicated. Step by step switches don’t know the phone number you are calling from, which is why they could not handle…

History of 1+ Dialing

If you grew up on the east coast in a large city you probably think 1+ dialing is weird, or an inconvenience. You never dialed 1 before a “long distance” call. You just dialed the 7 or 10 digit number….

Gaming the Bell System

Long distance rates used to be based upon three things: The time of day you were calling, the distance you were calling, and whether you were dialing yourself or needed an operator. I remember working for my local Bell Operating…

Analog was Faster

This may surprise you, but analog central offices could from the outset and up to their demise transmit data faster than digital ones. There is a reason that the original picture phone service only worked in analog central offices, and…

Reflecting on the Bell Labs Era

Bell Laboratories was the greatest of all research laboratories, in an era of great laboratories. Any description of Bell Labs of the 1970s would necessarily seem impossible, or a fantasy. It’s something that I think doesn’t exist anywhere today. Managers…

Yellow Pages Advertising During Regulation

The closest thing to Google in the 1960s and 1970s was the phone book. You could look up any topic and get a listing of those who provided services. Need a plumber? The Yellow Pages book was your go-to. And,…

Remembering Bell Laboratories

I worked for Bell Laboratories during a rare time in American history. To people today, it was a surreal experience, it was something that cannot exist today outside of the NSA. I remember riding my bicycle on the 5th floor…

Privacy and the old Bell System

Today, Verizon monitors every website you visit, and presumably they sell this information at least to the NSA and perhaps to anybody willing to pay. I was asked the question, but hasn’t this always been how it was? No. In…

Bell System Breakup Part 2

Part 1 Colin here.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) anti-trust lawsuit had been running for a number of years, and by the early 1980s it was finally going to trial. Bell recognized two things: They could not win this lawsuit…

Bell System Breakup

Back in the 1970s I worked for the Bell System. That was a turbulent time in the company’s history because it was the introduction of competition. Here’s the real story you never heard – in two parts. The Bell System…

The Origin of Email

Colin here, and I have a surprise for you. The inventor of email did not invent email. EMail was actually invented by the Bell System and was in commercial operation long before the Arpanet even existed. This is an interesting story……

How the Bell System Missed the Internet 8

“Epilogue” In this series I have been talking about how in the 1970s AT&T’s Billy Oliver had the vision to build a packet switched data network. Billy was the Steve Jobs of the Bell System. He was a visionary and…

How the Bell System Missed the Internet 7

“The ACS System Has been Faked. It still does not work. It will never work.” At this point we have a situation where I reported that the ACS system cannot ever work. It is late, hundreds of people have been…

How the Bell System Missed the Internet 6

“The fraud…” The Bell System ACS system was the largest privately financed R&D project in the history of mankind as of 1980. It was designed to have been the network that connected every home and business with data. The Bell…

How the Bell System Missed the Internet 5

“Demonstrating the ACS system to the AT&T executives…and apparent success…” I have been discussing ACS, the Bell System version of the Internet. The BBN ARPANet was too small and couldn’t scale up into a national data network. So the Bell…

How the Bell System Missed the Internet 4

“The Bell System Advanced Communications System Fails…” So, development progressed on the AT&T ACS system. This was the system destined to become what the internet is today. It was to be a massive packet switching system able to serve tens…

How the Bell System Missed the Internet 3

“The Bell System ACS system Takes Shape…and Fails…” This series discusses the largest private R&D development project in history as of the 1980s. It was a system called Advanced Communications System, or ACS. It was destined to become what the…

How the Bell System Missed the Internet 2

“ARPANet and Scaleability” Today the ubiquitous Internet is taken for granted as being obvious and necessary. But in the 1970s things were different. There were a multitude of competing networks. Tymnet, Telenet, and Compuserve all offered nationwide networking. Later, Canadian…