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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/246

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

and where the modern relay multiple switchboard affords every facility for rapid intercommunication. So compact are these improved switchboards that each subscriber-line reappears in each and every section, thus enabling any one of the three operators allotted to a section to reach the jack connecting with the subscriber line of any one of the many subscribers connected to that given exchange even though they number ten thousand. Under these favorable conditions the average time in which 'Central' answers a calling subscriber rarely exceeds four seconds, and a local call is completed on an average of less than thirty-five seconds, the time consumed depending largely on the promptness with which the called subscriber responds to 'Central's' calling. Concerning the rapidity with which telephone connections were secured in pioneer days, we have a statement made in 1887, by Mr. B. E. Sunny, a man of exceptional ability, who was one of the first to comprehend the true function of telephone service and who strove to make his service the best that human effort and improved apparatus could make it. Mr. Sunny said:

Chicago has tried the division of labor plan on three distinct types of switchboard. On the first switchboard in the central office in about 1880, with four hundred subscribers, we were able to make a connection in about five minutes; on the second type of switchboard, which was the Gilliland, we were able to make connection with five operators in about two minutes. On the third type-of switchboard, which was the Western Electric pattern, but of special make, we came mighty near not being able to make any connection at all; but after we had hammered away at it for a long time, we got the time down to about two minutes and a half. We changed from that to our present system of the unit of labor, and we make connections on an average of about forty-five seconds. So far as possible we make two operators on all connections, local and trunk, do the work.

It is also interesting to note that in 1884 Mr. Sunny started a school of instruction for telephone operators in Chicago. When an applicant appeared she was advised to enter this school and receive free instruction, and about one in four of the students were found competent to enter the regular service. When full, the class was composed of ten students. The teacher in charge was a former public school teacher, who had also served four years as an operator, monitor, chief operator, etc., under conditions that had enabled her to gain a thorough knowledge of the duties of an operator. The school apparatus consisted of three sections of switchboard and a dozen or more telephones connected up at different points in the school-room. Calls were sent in and connections made at the switchboards as nearly as possible according to regular practice. Mr. Sunny found that this method of training

educates the students in the matter of hearing and talking and handling the cords and handling the cam-levers, so that when they sit down to actual work they have nothing to overcome except the momentary nervousness. In the old system we used to take a new-comer and put her on a section to answer fifty subscribers, and we used to depend upon the subscribers to educate the operator and make her competent to fill that position.