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View Diary: My Little Town 20111228: Telephone Calls (190 comments)

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  •  The old AT&T did both good and bad (1+ / 0-)
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    I don't know if I found the comments you are referring to, though I tried. If you could post links to specific comment strings, I'd be happy to read them & respond. In the meantime...

    The old AT&T certainly did some great stuff, especially early on. BUT, by the time I entered grad school (late 70's), their monopoly ownership of all equipment connected to phone lines was VERY BAD and had to end.

    Anyone who connected equipment to the phone lines that AT&T didn't own would have it confiscated when they noticed. So nobody could build the advanced computer telecommunications equipment that they knew how to build and that was starting to be DESPERATELY needed to advance computer intercommunication. AT&T certainly was not filling that slack.

    Sure, I had ARPAnet at school. But from home, all I had was a very low speed rubber-socket modem. Once other companies could build telecomm equipment, the field really took off -- modem speeds went up fast and costs wend down fast. And computer interconnection became much more broadly available.

    Sure, in the early days there were technical issues with connecting other people's equipment to the wires. But that is what STANDARDS are for: the electronics industry has millions of them to deal with situations where equipment from different companies must interoperate.

    Those standard quickly came to pass, and then "network interface boxes" were invented to deal with customers who may do their own non-standard changes to their phone wires. The technical problems were solved once they needed to be. I don't see how ending the equipment monopoly could have come to pass without breaking up AT&T.

    Re the "free repairs in the house" issue, does anyone here remember when repairs were needed in their house? I've needed repairs 3 or 4 times over 20 years in my current very old house, and it was ALWAYS a problem outside the house.

    So as it stands, though I can say that AT&T did wonderful things in the early days (including funding Bell Labs -- which is a big story by itself), my experience in computer science says that the monopoly was grossly impeding innovation by the time it was broken up.

    And then there are long distance charges. It was a shock to me when the old "charge by miles" system went away, even though I'm a computer engineer & should have figured out earlier that by then, the real cost was in the connection, not the distance. That change only happened because there was competition for long distance service -- another monopoly that needed to be broken up to get innovation.

    For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die... AT&T had a glorious life as a monopoly. Frankly, I think it's been reborn into a stronger form.


    •  You make some excellent points. (1+ / 0-)
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      I guess that I am just getting a bit wistful about the old days, carefree, and happy.  Those are many parsecs from my life now.

      Warmest regards,


      I do not believe in anything.

      by Translator on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 02:16:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, it was a fascinating time. I used to say... (1+ / 0-)
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        ... (repeating others) that computers wouldn't be really mainstream until they were as reliable as telephones! In those days, phones Just Worked but you had to be an expert to use a PC.

        Of course, part of the reason phones were so reliable was because they didn't do much! I think we've made huge strides toward computers (in certain form factors) being as reliable as phones, but only because phones are now so very much more complex!

        And of course, the distinction between "phone" and "computer" has largely changed from distinction of function to a distinction of form factor. If it fits in your shirt pocket, it's a phone, as it gets larger it's a tablet or a PC or a workstation, but ALL of them are connected to the network.

        The ubiquitous fixed phone network massively changed the world and how we interact with each other. The ubiquitous mobile phone network is, in my view, an even larger change.

        I also get nostalgic about the old days. But I wouldn't go back. It's like when I told a high school kid that I used to do 8080 assembly language programming. He looked impressed & said he'd never done that. I replied, "why would you want to?" They were fun days, but I wouldn't trade them for the better computers & communication we have now.

        Peace & Happy New Year,

        •  You are wise! (0+ / 0-)

          From the technology standpoint, I would not go back either.  Things are better these days.  From an emotional standpoint, if I could be of the untroubled heart that I had in 1978 I would go back in a New York minute!

          Warmest regards,


          I do not believe in anything.

          by Translator on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 03:58:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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