8/31/12

Tech #17: Phone Thing


Have you ever seen a more ridiculous thing in your life?  These crummy pieces of paper are supposed to somehow make sense of the insanely confusing rates and save you money.

The Phone Thing comes to you from 1979, but considering the advances in telecommunications since then, it may as well be 1879.  Some of you may remember the mind numbing long distance game of the seventies and eighties.

If you'll recall, the first minute was always the most expensive.  And long distance rates were so steep that you could fill your tank up with gas for the price of talking on the phone for an hour. In most homes, long distance was forbidden except on weekends.  If you absolutely had to call on a weekday, it would have to be late in the evening and you'd have to make it super quick.



To make things even more inconvenient, your fees would be based on distance. So, a call from Atlanta to Baltimore would cost more than a call from Atlanta to Los Angeles. BUT physical location wasn't always a good guide as exceptions to this rule were plentiful.  And something tells me this "Phone Thing" wasn't going to solve your problems.


13 comments:

  1. From back in the day when Bell had a monopoly of long distance calling.

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  2. I remember those days well. We couldn't call my Grandmother who lived 30 minutes away unless it was after 6 PM.

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  3. As you say, the wheel thing wouldn't have helped much with phone rates. All you really needed to know was "Call LD only in emergencies."

    But those wheel things were handy pocket tools for purposes that involved complicated math PLUS rules or constraints. For instance, finding the correct wire gauge for an electrical load. Ohm's Law wouldn't give you the whole answer because state building codes imposed extra constraints. So a custom-made wheel thing was perfect.

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  4. My aunt used to call my other aunt only from our house but not from her house. She was on the WOodlawn exchange. There was an extra fee to call the STerling exchange from the WOodlawn exchange but we were on the ULysses exchange and there was no extra charge to call a STerling number from our phone.

    I paid a lot less for telephone service under the old monopoly. The scheme was that long distance fees subsidized local service. Most of my calling was local. I avoided relationships outside my area code for geographic convenience, not to avoid high telephone bills.

    If you made a call during a low-rate time but finished the call after the rates went up, your entire call was charged at the lower rate. Some companies used to take advantage of this by having their operator call the office on the other coast before the rates went up. They'd keep the connection all day and use it for all calls that would otherwise be charged at the high rate.

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  5. The trick was to call "Person to Person" and use a fake code name. Then the other party would refuse the call, but by the code name would know what the message was.

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  6. The Person To Person Code system was employed all through my in the military and away at college years, gotta love Ma Bell turning a blind eye to being so openly scammed.

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  7. I read somewhere that the Bell System did some soul-searching and serious research before setting the original fess for long distance calls. They wanted to make as much money as possible, of course, but they didn't want to price themselves out of the market. Word is they finally settled on 1/5 the price of a train ticket to the city to be called.

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  8. in the summer of 1981, I would call my college roomy every week after 10:00 PM on Sunday night. THE VERY CHEAPEST RATE THERE WAS. Ma Bell billed us seventeen bucks for a one-hour chat.

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  9. Oh man, I remember those days. We live in PA and we have family in Texas. I clearly remember being 6 or 7 (1981 or 1982) and going to my grandparents' apartment on the sundays it was our turn to call Texas so that the whole PA family would be in one spot so only one call had to be made. Why we didn't do that on the sundays Texas called us, I don't know...hmmm....

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  10. I remember how it used to be cheaper to use dialup/pulse dialing to make a simple call, and how they charged you extra to use dial tones as recently as the late 80s. Sad sad sad.

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  11. You literally had to buy a phone allowing for it, after the Bell Telephone breakup in the early 80s. If you wanted to save money, your phone had to do pulse dialing.

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  12. I remember how it used to be cheaper to use dialup/pulse dialing to make a simple call, and how they charged you extra to use dial tones as recently as the late 80s. Sad sad sad.

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