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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/57

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53
DEVELOPMENT OF TELEPHONE SERVICE

excellent talking service would, no doubt, have resulted. For there were few vagrant currents sneaking around in those days.

Yet back to these cheaply constructed subscriber-lines and that crude equipment is easily traced the origin of the marvelous system of intricate switchboard mechanism, practical and standardized methods, and progressive operation known as the modern telephone exchange, and by the aid of which a subscriber in New Haven may now talk with greater ease to a subscriber in Pittsburg, or in Chicago, than was possible when the two subscribers were distant only a block away on wet pioneer days in Connecticut. That is, less shouting would be required.

With the accumulation of experience in constructing telephone pole lines covering a period of a quarter of a century, we might wonder that Mr. Coy should have put up telephone lines of so crude a character. But from whom could he gain experience concerning the construction of telephone lines? He built the first commercial telephone line ever constructed. Owing to the bitter competition existing between the telegraph companies, the telegraphers of those days strove not to see how good a telegraph line could be built, but how cheaply it could be constructed and yet carry messages when 'sufficient battery' was used. Battery current cost but little, and properly-constructed pole lines brought no higher price than rickety lines, when the inevitable consolidation was brought about by cut rates. Then the promoter pocketed his profit, and the public footed the bill in an increase of rates to cover interest charges on the duplicate and non-earning investment. In the words of a governmental report dated January, 1869:

There is no uniformity in telegraph rates. They are often less to a distant (competing) station than to an intermediate one on the same line. In other countries the rates are reduced with the growth of business and never raised. In this country they are reduced by competition, followed by consolidation of the competing companies, and subsequent increase of rates, without regard to the growth of the business.

Yet Mr. Coy followed the approved American practise of 1878, a practise that prevailed for several years thereafter, as is evident from the official instructions issued by the parent Bell company during the years 1879-81. And these instructions certainly make interesting reading, now that uniformity in methods and standardization in equipment and stability in construction are rigidly insisted upon by all legitimate telephone companies.

It was comparatively easy to run telephone circuits in those pioneer days when only telegraph or signal companies were stringing wires.

There were no trolley wires until 1884, and no central station lighting plants prior to 1879. In 1873 William Wallace was building his relatively large magneto-machines in Ansonia, which early in 1874