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We're aaaaaaaaaall connecteddd...
It was probably 1983 or so when New York Telephone (now Verizon) upgraded our exchange from electromechanical switching to an AT&T 5ESS.  I clearly remember the day when I finished dialing a friend's number and didn't hear that satisfying "ka-CHUNK" indicating that you had successfully dropped a trunk line and the call was on its way.  I also remember shortly after that, using touch-tone on our line even though "we didn't have that service."

Adding touch-tone to a line served by mechanical switch required modifications that really did cost telco money.  On an electronic switch it was just an intrinsic part of the system, but for several years they tried to get away with continuing to charge extra for it.  I used tone dial on my modem and when telco tried to slap us with the fee we told them, "nope, not paying for it, shut the service off."  I knew they didn't have the ability to do that, so they simply took the fee off the bill.

That was a generation ago, when my dad was skeptical that I could even make a touch tone dialer work, and even more skeptical when he brought in the phone bill and I told him we can easily refuse to pay for tone service.  Today, my kids wouldn't know how to use a rotary phone if they saw one (Wes would probably figure it out, he's into that kind of stuff) but it's fun to think about how the dialing isn't even decoded by a switch at the telco, but rather by a 612A ONT in the basement that terminates the analog leg and sends the call out digitally over fiber optic cable between my home and the central office.   And long distance is billed at a flat monthly rate -- who'd have ever thought?

Posted by IGnatius T Foobar on Mon Nov 18 2013 07:48:55 EST
8 comments | permalink
zooer  says:  Mon Nov 18 2013 12:35:51 EST
More than ten years ago I worked briefly for AT&T, they had purchased our company and then eliminated our department. I remember hearing 10+ years ago that long distance charges would be eliminated within five years. I have also moved several times and I have kept my cell phone's number. I moved out of state and kept it as well, hoping my move would be temporary. You don't need to change your cell phone number anymore if there are no long distance charges. It also saves the months of having to say "Nope, he doesn't have this phone number anymore... NO, why would I know his new number?"

zooer  says:  Mon Nov 18 2013 12:37:48 EST
I should also note that I have a local google voice number that forwards to my cell.

IGnatius T Foobar  says:  Mon Nov 18 2013 14:17:55 EST
For all practical purposes, long distance charges are a thing of the past.
Now we pay for mobile minutes and mobile data.

In the 1960's there was a lot of speculation that nuclear energy would make electricity so cheap to produce that one day we'd just pay a flat monthly rate for delivery. If it weren't for the watermelons we'd probably be there by now. That speculation drove the construction of quite a few all-electric homes.

LoanShark  says:  Mon Nov 18 2013 16:45:38 EST
probably be there by now. That speculation drove the construction of

quite a few all-electric homes.

might explain the electric heat on our ski house - in VT electric is quite expensive, especially during peak hours, but the house was built around that time - the whole town was built in the 60s as the resort was built up.

IGnatius T Foobar  says:  Tue Nov 19 2013 07:55:58 EST
It's very possible -- or it's also possible that they just built it as cheaply as possible. Electric resistance heat is super cheap to install, super expensive to operate. Do they actually do peak/offpeak metering there?

themgt  says:  Tue Nov 19 2013 09:12:10 EST
We have a working rotary phone here in our living room. I inherited it from my grandma, it survived my childhood toying around with it and has been connected to ISDN to analog converters ever since I lived on my own. Today it is hooked to an "elmeg" ISDN PBX. Elmeg ceased to exist as an independent company long ago. The is connected via USB to a windows vm running on my homeserver for ease of configuration (no linux drivers). This thing is rock solid, together with my granny's phone it might outlive every modern communication device we own. German engineering in da house! As a side node, granny's rotary phone is the only land line phone which will work on a power outage here, since the C48 is configured to let it work as an emergency phone in that case. The 40 volts on the ISDN line are enough to power up to two normal phones. But every other phone here needs extra power... My son does know what it is and how to use it, he loves to call one of our other phones in our house and talk with somebody. Recently we had some kids visiting, none of them knew what it was... There goes your skeumorphism...

LoanShark  says:  Tue Nov 19 2013 13:40:01 EST
install, super expensive to operate. Do they actually do peak/offpeak

metering there?

Yes. There's a standard lecture to keep the heat down during peak hours. I guess that must make the metering equipment considerably more complicated.

IGnatius T Foobar  says:  Tue Nov 19 2013 15:24:17 EST
I've seen the equipment (we have it here at the big blue triangle that used to be an x). The meter takes a reading every couple of minutes and stores it in memory. The electric company periodically dials in to a modem attached to the meter and pulls all of the samples so it can figure out how much electricity was consumed during which portions of the day.

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