The Unix Heritage Society mailing list
 help / Atom feed
* [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70.
@ 2019-03-12 16:02 Dan Cross
  2019-03-12 17:14 ` Clem Cole
  0 siblings, 1 reply; 17+ messages in thread
From: Dan Cross @ 2019-03-12 16:02 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: The Eunuchs Hysterical Society

[-- Attachment #1: Type: text/plain, Size: 292 bytes --]

TUHS related due to the BTL connection. This came across a mailing list at
work today (as a, "hey, this is cool!" thing; nothing work related) and I
thought some on this list might be interested.

http://www.larryluckham.com/1969%20&%2070%20-%20Bell%20Labs/album/index.html

        - Dan C.

[-- Attachment #2: Type: text/html, Size: 515 bytes --]

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70.
  2019-03-12 16:02 [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70 Dan Cross
@ 2019-03-12 17:14 ` Clem Cole
  2019-03-12 17:17   ` Jon Steinhart
                     ` (3 more replies)
  0 siblings, 4 replies; 17+ messages in thread
From: Clem Cole @ 2019-03-12 17:14 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: Dan Cross; +Cc: The Eunuchs Hysterical Society

[-- Attachment #1: Type: text/plain, Size: 936 bytes --]

Very cool.  Takes me back when I used to do that ;-)  As CMU of us all
system programmers had to do shifts as operators.   The thinking was that
if we had do the crappy job too, we would fix things and not let the bugs
build.  FWIW:  I can not tell which model 360 it is.  I think its a 65 or
67.  It's not a 91 nor a 40 or 50.

BTW the 'bell' on the console was a fire alarm bell inside of the main CPU
cab.  Also what those pics do not reveal is how noisy it was in the machine
rooms.  The fans were constantly going.

Clem
ᐧ

On Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 12:04 PM Dan Cross <crossd@gmail.com> wrote:

> TUHS related due to the BTL connection. This came across a mailing list at
> work today (as a, "hey, this is cool!" thing; nothing work related) and I
> thought some on this list might be interested.
>
>
> http://www.larryluckham.com/1969%20&%2070%20-%20Bell%20Labs/album/index.html
>
>         - Dan C.
>
>

[-- Attachment #2: Type: text/html, Size: 2134 bytes --]

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70.
  2019-03-12 17:14 ` Clem Cole
@ 2019-03-12 17:17   ` Jon Steinhart
  2019-03-12 17:29     ` Clem Cole
  2019-03-12 17:42   ` Paul Winalski
                     ` (2 subsequent siblings)
  3 siblings, 1 reply; 17+ messages in thread
From: Jon Steinhart @ 2019-03-12 17:17 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: The Eunuchs Hysterical Society

On Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 12:04 PM Dan Cross <crossd@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> TUHS related due to the BTL connection. This came across a mailing list a=
t
> work today (as a, "hey, this is cool!" thing; nothing work related) and I
> thought some on this list might be interested.
>
>
> http://www.larryluckham.com/1969%20&%2070%20-%20Bell%20Labs/album/index.html
>
>         - Dan C.

Must be a different Bell.  I wanted to take a picture of me in my lab for my
high school yearbook but no way no how could get permission to bring in a
camera.

Jon

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70.
  2019-03-12 17:17   ` Jon Steinhart
@ 2019-03-12 17:29     ` Clem Cole
  2019-03-12 17:31       ` Jon Steinhart
  0 siblings, 1 reply; 17+ messages in thread
From: Clem Cole @ 2019-03-12 17:29 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: Jon Steinhart; +Cc: The Eunuchs Hysterical Society

[-- Attachment #1: Type: text/plain, Size: 724 bytes --]

Jon - Dept Head vs. peon maybe ;-)
ᐧ

On Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 1:24 PM Jon Steinhart <jon@fourwinds.com> wrote:

> On Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 12:04 PM Dan Cross <crossd@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > TUHS related due to the BTL connection. This came across a mailing list
> a=
> t
> > work today (as a, "hey, this is cool!" thing; nothing work related) and I
> > thought some on this list might be interested.
> >
> >
> >
> http://www.larryluckham.com/1969%20&%2070%20-%20Bell%20Labs/album/index.html
> >
> >         - Dan C.
>
> Must be a different Bell.  I wanted to take a picture of me in my lab for
> my
> high school yearbook but no way no how could get permission to bring in a
> camera.
>
> Jon
>

[-- Attachment #2: Type: text/html, Size: 1630 bytes --]

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70.
  2019-03-12 17:29     ` Clem Cole
@ 2019-03-12 17:31       ` Jon Steinhart
  0 siblings, 0 replies; 17+ messages in thread
From: Jon Steinhart @ 2019-03-12 17:31 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: The Eunuchs Hysterical Society

Clem Cole writes:
>
> Jon - Dept Head vs. peon maybe ;-)
> =E1=90=A7

Could be, but both Joe Condon and Hank MacDonald asked on my behalf
and they weren't peons.

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70.
  2019-03-12 17:14 ` Clem Cole
  2019-03-12 17:17   ` Jon Steinhart
@ 2019-03-12 17:42   ` Paul Winalski
  2019-03-13  0:17   ` Greg 'groggy' Lehey
  2019-03-13  1:37   ` Dave Horsfall
  3 siblings, 0 replies; 17+ messages in thread
From: Paul Winalski @ 2019-03-12 17:42 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: Clem Cole; +Cc: The Eunuchs Hysterical Society

On 3/12/19, Clem Cole <clemc@ccc.com> wrote:
> Very cool.  Takes me back when I used to do that ;-)  As CMU of us all
> system programmers had to do shifts as operators.   The thinking was that
> if we had do the crappy job too, we would fix things and not let the bugs
> build.  FWIW:  I can not tell which model 360 it is.  I think its a 65 or
> 67.  It's not a 91 nor a 40 or 50.
>
That's definitely a S/360 model 50 that the operator is hiding in.

-Paul W.

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70.
  2019-03-12 17:14 ` Clem Cole
  2019-03-12 17:17   ` Jon Steinhart
  2019-03-12 17:42   ` Paul Winalski
@ 2019-03-13  0:17   ` Greg 'groggy' Lehey
  2019-03-13  1:37   ` Dave Horsfall
  3 siblings, 0 replies; 17+ messages in thread
From: Greg 'groggy' Lehey @ 2019-03-13  0:17 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: Clem Cole; +Cc: The Eunuchs Hysterical Society

[-- Attachment #1: Type: text/plain, Size: 694 bytes --]

On Tuesday, 12 March 2019 at 13:14:58 -0400, Clem Cole wrote:
> Very cool.  Takes me back when I used to do that ;-) As CMU of us
> all system programmers had to do shifts as operators.  The thinking
> was that if we had do the crappy job too, we would fix things and
> not let the bugs build.

Clearly a different attitude from ours.  We always felt honoured to be
let into the Holy of Holies (behind not one, but two armoured doors).

Greg
--
Sent from my desktop computer.
Finger grog@lemis.com for PGP public key.
See complete headers for address and phone numbers.
This message is digitally signed.  If your Microsoft mail program
reports problems, please read http://lemis.com/broken-MUA

[-- Attachment #2: signature.asc --]
[-- Type: application/pgp-signature, Size: 163 bytes --]

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70.
  2019-03-12 17:14 ` Clem Cole
                     ` (2 preceding siblings ...)
  2019-03-13  0:17   ` Greg 'groggy' Lehey
@ 2019-03-13  1:37   ` Dave Horsfall
  2019-03-13  8:41     ` Peter Jeremy
  3 siblings, 1 reply; 17+ messages in thread
From: Dave Horsfall @ 2019-03-13  1:37 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: The Eunuchs Hysterical Society

[-- Attachment #1: Type: text/plain, Size: 970 bytes --]

On Tue, 12 Mar 2019, Clem Cole wrote:

> Very cool.  Takes me back when I used to do that ;-)  As CMU of us all 
> system programmers had to do shifts as operators.   The thinking was 
> that if we had do the crappy job too, we would fix things and not let 
> the bugs build.  FWIW:  I can not tell which model 360 it is.  I think 
> its a 65 or 67.  It's not a 91 nor a 40 or 50. 

One of the best unpaid jobs I ever did was being a student 360/50 operator 
on the night shift.  Boy, the stories that I could tell, such as card 
decks being sticky-taped together, paper tape stuck to the spool, etc...

And the time that I switched off the 029 keypunch printer to not print the 
"PRI=6" JCL, thereby screwing up the operator's disk schedule...  I got my 
deck back, unsubmitted, with the job card torn into a neat spiral.

I actually met him at a DECUS conference, and he was most amiable about 
it.

And no, it doesn't look like a /50 console to me.

-- Dave

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70.
  2019-03-13  1:37   ` Dave Horsfall
@ 2019-03-13  8:41     ` Peter Jeremy
  2019-03-14 22:12       ` Al Kossow
  0 siblings, 1 reply; 17+ messages in thread
From: Peter Jeremy @ 2019-03-13  8:41 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: Dave Horsfall; +Cc: The Eunuchs Hysterical Society

[-- Attachment #1: Type: text/plain, Size: 1296 bytes --]

On 2019-Mar-13 12:37:47 +1100, Dave Horsfall <dave@horsfall.org> wrote:
>On Tue, 12 Mar 2019, Clem Cole wrote:
>> the bugs build.  FWIW:  I can not tell which model 360 it is.  I think 
>> its a 65 or 67.  It's not a 91 nor a 40 or 50. 
...
>And no, it doesn't look like a /50 console to me.

Well, the model number should be visible in
http://www.larryluckham.com/1969%20&%2070%20-%20Bell%20Labs/album/slides/Bell_Labs__0003.html
but it's too blurred for me to make it out (even knowing that the first
2 digits are "20", I can't make them out).

I've looked through both the IBM history pages and the WP pages and I'm
reasonably confident it's a /50.  Compare the above photo with
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/39/IBM_system_360-50_console_-_MfK_Bern.jpg/450px-IBM_system_360-50_console_-_MfK_Bern.jpg
or https://www.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/mainframe/mainframe_2423PH2050.html

It's definitely not a /65 based on the leftmost subpanel - see
https://www.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/mainframe/mainframe_2423PH2065C.html
The only /67 photos I can find show a similarly blank subpanel.

The other S360 models all had radically different front panels (much lower
on the low-end models and much wider on the high-end models).

-- 
Peter Jeremy

[-- Attachment #2: signature.asc --]
[-- Type: application/pgp-signature, Size: 963 bytes --]

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70
@ 2019-03-13 13:25 Doug McIlroy
  2019-03-14  8:10 ` Rob Pike
  0 siblings, 1 reply; 17+ messages in thread
From: Doug McIlroy @ 2019-03-13 13:25 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: tuhs

Strangely I have no recollection of a Bell Labs branch further
west than Denver. What did they do in Oakland?

Doug

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70
  2019-03-13 13:25 Doug McIlroy
@ 2019-03-14  8:10 ` Rob Pike
  2019-03-15  4:03   ` Kevin Bowling
  2019-03-16 21:30   ` Steve Johnson
  0 siblings, 2 replies; 17+ messages in thread
From: Rob Pike @ 2019-03-14  8:10 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: Doug McIlroy; +Cc: tuhs

[-- Attachment #1: Type: text/plain, Size: 310 bytes --]

Maybe it was the bizarro Bell Labs whose existence meant we couldn't have
the domain belllabs.com.

-rob


On Thu, Mar 14, 2019 at 12:26 AM Doug McIlroy <doug@cs.dartmouth.edu> wrote:

> Strangely I have no recollection of a Bell Labs branch further
> west than Denver. What did they do in Oakland?
>
> Doug
>

[-- Attachment #2: Type: text/html, Size: 678 bytes --]

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70.
  2019-03-13  8:41     ` Peter Jeremy
@ 2019-03-14 22:12       ` Al Kossow
  0 siblings, 0 replies; 17+ messages in thread
From: Al Kossow @ 2019-03-14 22:12 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: tuhs



On 3/13/19 1:41 AM, Peter Jeremy wrote:
> On 2019-Mar-13 12:37:47 +1100, Dave Horsfall <dave@horsfall.org> wrote:
>> On Tue, 12 Mar 2019, Clem Cole wrote:
>>> the bugs build.  FWIW:  I can not tell which model 360 it is.  I think 
>>> its a 65 or 67.  It's not a 91 nor a 40 or 50. 
> ...
>> And no, it doesn't look like a /50 console to me.

http://infolab.stanford.edu/pub/voy/museum/pictures/display/IBM2050ConsoleRed_1965.jpg




^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70
  2019-03-14  8:10 ` Rob Pike
@ 2019-03-15  4:03   ` Kevin Bowling
  2019-03-16 21:30   ` Steve Johnson
  1 sibling, 0 replies; 17+ messages in thread
From: Kevin Bowling @ 2019-03-15  4:03 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: Rob Pike; +Cc: The Eunuchs Hysterical Society

[-- Attachment #1: Type: text/plain, Size: 528 bytes --]

I was amused last weekend after using that Bell Labs product to treat an
old AT&T Long Lines L-Carrier bunker.

Regards,
Kevin

On Thu, Mar 14, 2019 at 1:11 AM Rob Pike <robpike@gmail.com> wrote:

> Maybe it was the bizarro Bell Labs whose existence meant we couldn't have
> the domain belllabs.com.
>
> -rob
>
>
> On Thu, Mar 14, 2019 at 12:26 AM Doug McIlroy <doug@cs.dartmouth.edu>
> wrote:
>
>> Strangely I have no recollection of a Bell Labs branch further
>> west than Denver. What did they do in Oakland?
>>
>> Doug
>>
>

[-- Attachment #2: Type: text/html, Size: 1336 bytes --]

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70
  2019-03-14  8:10 ` Rob Pike
  2019-03-15  4:03   ` Kevin Bowling
@ 2019-03-16 21:30   ` Steve Johnson
  2019-03-17 18:52     ` Ralph Corderoy
  1 sibling, 1 reply; 17+ messages in thread
From: Steve Johnson @ 2019-03-16 21:30 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: Rob Pike, Doug McIlroy; +Cc: tuhs

[-- Attachment #1: Type: text/plain, Size: 818 bytes --]

For a long time, California was viewed as hostile to phone companies,
or at least AT&T, and I remember clearly people saying that Bell Labs
would never have a location in CA as a result.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Rob Pike" <robpike@gmail.com>
To:"Doug McIlroy" <doug@cs.dartmouth.edu>
Cc:<tuhs@tuhs.org>
Sent:Thu, 14 Mar 2019 19:10:30 +1100
Subject:Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70

Maybe it was the bizarro Bell Labs whose existence meant we couldn't
have the domain belllabs.com [1].

-rob

On Thu, Mar 14, 2019 at 12:26 AM Doug McIlroy <doug@cs.dartmouth.edu
[2]> wrote:
Strangely I have no recollection of a Bell Labs branch further
 west than Denver. What did they do in Oakland?

 Doug
 

Links:
------
[1] http://belllabs.com
[2] mailto:doug@cs.dartmouth.edu


[-- Attachment #2: Type: text/html, Size: 1738 bytes --]

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70
  2019-03-16 21:30   ` Steve Johnson
@ 2019-03-17 18:52     ` Ralph Corderoy
  2019-03-17 19:39       ` Arthur Krewat
  0 siblings, 1 reply; 17+ messages in thread
From: Ralph Corderoy @ 2019-03-17 18:52 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: tuhs

Hi Steve,

> For a long time, California was viewed as hostile to phone companies,
> or at least AT&T, and I remember clearly people saying that Bell Labs
> would never have a location in CA as a result.

Here's what Larry Luckham told me in a private email that he's since
said could be copied to the list.

Larry wrote:
> Of the thousands of web pages that I have posted the one of the Bell
> Labs photos is the one that generates a dozen queries a year.  Had no
> idea that would be the case when I posted it.  The photos are also the
> most ripped off and reposted of anything I've ever done.  But, to your
> points.
>
> The facility I set up in Oakland was temporary and for a specific
> experiment that ran for roughly 4 years.  You may recall that
> beginning in the mid 60's the Bell System was experiencing a huge and
> unpredicted demand for 411, information operator services.  The lead
> time to provide the trunking and other facilities for 411 operations
> was something like 25 years.  The public facing response was the "$55
> million dollar phone call" ad campaign intended to point customers
> back to printed directories.  The inward facing response was to figure
> out a way to handle each request for service faster so that the
> existing trunking and other facilities could meet the growing demand.
>
> At that time information operators relied on printed directories much
> the same as the customer's printed directory, except that theirs were
> loose leaf, reprinted monthly, and supplemented with a yellow daily
> addendum.  They were also printed in a larger format to make reading
> easier.  A division of the Labs called Business Information Systems
> Corp.  out of the Raritan River Center was tasked with the project and
> given a very short timeline.  A computer database and electronic
> display terminals driven by a very powerful search engine was the
> result.  Special operator terminals were designed and built by Western
> Electric.  The search engine was contracted out to Computer Corp. of
> America (CCA) which had been founded by some guys from Minsky's AI lab
> at MIT.  Then the idea was to try it out in a live environment.
> The San Francisco Bay Area was selected as reasonably representative
> and that's where I came in.  I was already managing the data center at
> the local Bell company, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph,
> San Francisco, so I was recruited to make it happen.  I built the
> mainframe data center, PT&T provided space in an information operating
> room a few blocks away and CCA came onsite to do the programming.
>
> The testing ran roughly 4 years.  I had moved on before it ended, but
> it was successful and was implanted, at least to some degree, but this
> shop was dismantled and everyone went home.  Then technology did what
> it always does, it ran over everything and changed the world.
> Along came the PC, the Internet, smart phones, etc.
>
> It's been a very long time and I'm sure I've forgotten, or
> misremembered stuff, but that's kind of what I remember.
> Hope it sheds some light.

-- 
Cheers, Ralph.

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70
  2019-03-17 18:52     ` Ralph Corderoy
@ 2019-03-17 19:39       ` Arthur Krewat
  2019-03-18 15:04         ` John P. Linderman
  0 siblings, 1 reply; 17+ messages in thread
From: Arthur Krewat @ 2019-03-17 19:39 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: tuhs

This kind of telephone history always get my "phreak" up ;)


On 3/17/2019 2:52 PM, Ralph Corderoy wrote:
> Hi Steve,
>
>> For a long time, California was viewed as hostile to phone companies,
>> or at least AT&T, and I remember clearly people saying that Bell Labs
>> would never have a location in CA as a result.
> Here's what Larry Luckham told me in a private email that he's since
> said could be copied to the list.
>
> Larry wrote:
>> Of the thousands of web pages that I have posted the one of the Bell
>> Labs photos is the one that generates a dozen queries a year.  Had no
>> idea that would be the case when I posted it.  The photos are also the
>> most ripped off and reposted of anything I've ever done.  But, to your
>> points.
>>
>> The facility I set up in Oakland was temporary and for a specific
>> experiment that ran for roughly 4 years.  You may recall that
>> beginning in the mid 60's the Bell System was experiencing a huge and
>> unpredicted demand for 411, information operator services.  The lead
>> time to provide the trunking and other facilities for 411 operations
>> was something like 25 years.  The public facing response was the "$55
>> million dollar phone call" ad campaign intended to point customers
>> back to printed directories.  The inward facing response was to figure
>> out a way to handle each request for service faster so that the
>> existing trunking and other facilities could meet the growing demand.
>>
>> At that time information operators relied on printed directories much
>> the same as the customer's printed directory, except that theirs were
>> loose leaf, reprinted monthly, and supplemented with a yellow daily
>> addendum.  They were also printed in a larger format to make reading
>> easier.  A division of the Labs called Business Information Systems
>> Corp.  out of the Raritan River Center was tasked with the project and
>> given a very short timeline.  A computer database and electronic
>> display terminals driven by a very powerful search engine was the
>> result.  Special operator terminals were designed and built by Western
>> Electric.  The search engine was contracted out to Computer Corp. of
>> America (CCA) which had been founded by some guys from Minsky's AI lab
>> at MIT.  Then the idea was to try it out in a live environment.
>> The San Francisco Bay Area was selected as reasonably representative
>> and that's where I came in.  I was already managing the data center at
>> the local Bell company, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph,
>> San Francisco, so I was recruited to make it happen.  I built the
>> mainframe data center, PT&T provided space in an information operating
>> room a few blocks away and CCA came onsite to do the programming.
>>
>> The testing ran roughly 4 years.  I had moved on before it ended, but
>> it was successful and was implanted, at least to some degree, but this
>> shop was dismantled and everyone went home.  Then technology did what
>> it always does, it ran over everything and changed the world.
>> Along came the PC, the Internet, smart phones, etc.
>>
>> It's been a very long time and I'm sure I've forgotten, or
>> misremembered stuff, but that's kind of what I remember.
>> Hope it sheds some light.


^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

* Re: [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70
  2019-03-17 19:39       ` Arthur Krewat
@ 2019-03-18 15:04         ` John P. Linderman
  0 siblings, 0 replies; 17+ messages in thread
From: John P. Linderman @ 2019-03-18 15:04 UTC (permalink / raw)
  To: Arthur Krewat; +Cc: The Unix Heritage Society

[-- Attachment #1: Type: text/plain, Size: 7543 bytes --]

I can add an intolerable amount of detail to this story. I joined Business
Information Systems at the Labs in 1973, after completing my PhD at MIT. I
didn't like doing research: I wanted to write programs, not papers. (If I
had known what Bell Labs Research was about, I might well have applied
there). A small supervisory group, maybe 4 or 5 people, headed by someone
who had participated in the California test, was looking into
re-implementing the project. I don't know why the original didn't fly...
perhaps the way our effort died offers some insight.

"Information (411)" was a free service growing at an unsustainable rate.
The name was itself part of the problem. People would dial 411 to find out
about the weather. Changing the name to "Directory Assistance" helped. Just
talking about charging for calls helped even more. It cost AT&T nothing to
talk about it. But it was also clear that free paper-based search was
unsustainable. Operators got a daily "Frequently Called Numbers List
(FCNL)", things like hospitals and major retailers and IRS (in season).
Then there were the versions of the customer directories. These were
grouped by location, for which reason calls always started with "What City,
Please". If you didn't know the city, you were largely out of luck.
Operators couldn't plow through a stack of directories. The daily addenda
always struck me as bizarre. Operators were rated on call completion time,
so there wasn't much chance they'd take the time to check the addenda first
if the number showed up in the main directory. They probably served a
useful purpose for new numbers, which would be a logical reason for calling
411 to begin with. Typical calls were broken into three parts, getting the
information from the caller, searching for the number, and reporting the
number to the customer ("Oh, just a minute, I need to get a pencil.") Each
took about 10 seconds. Every second we could shave off a call was projected
to save the Bell System about a million dollars a year (back when 1 million
dollars was real money).

We had access to the directory information from the California trial, so we
did some analysis to suggest that 3 characters of Surname, plus 3 more of
City or of Street name, could be combined to produce a manageable list of
candidate numbers, and would shave several seconds off the search time.
(The approach would have mitigated the need to know City, and would have
consulted up-to-date information, which would have been regenerated daily).
A second phase, automated audio response to the customer, would have
eliminated the final phase of the calls. (It would also have eliminated
what little satisfaction the operators got from the job, which was already
well hated). It was easy to convince our department head that the project
was worth pursuing, and our director was also an easy convert. When we went
to our executive director, the final level of approval we needed to go
ahead, we expected an easy sell. Surprise! He was in charge of keeping
track of customer equipment, a huge and complicated effort. He told us, "In
Alabama, where I come from, we only hunt one rabbit at a time." He also
informed us that "micro-fiche had stolen the market". Our executive
director executed the fastest 180 I had ever seen, declaring that maybe the
project wasn't worth pursuing. I instantly lost all respect for him.

Two other notes. The executive director realized that by eliminating paper
directories, micro-fiche would save "the cost of glue for the binders". (I
and he were unaware that they were loose leaf, thanks, Ralph). He told my
supervisor to conduct a study of the cost of glue savings. My supervisor
(wisely) assigned the study to someone else in the group, knowing that I
would have walked before I wasted time on that. The executive director was
eventually promoted to "Vice President of Electronic Systems" at Western
Electric, possibly in recognition of his keen insight into the superiority
of micro-fiche over computers. With management like my director and
executive director, it's not too surprising that the original California
project folded.

On Sun, Mar 17, 2019 at 3:47 PM Arthur Krewat <krewat@kilonet.net> wrote:

> This kind of telephone history always get my "phreak" up ;)
>
>
> On 3/17/2019 2:52 PM, Ralph Corderoy wrote:
> > Hi Steve,
> >
> >> For a long time, California was viewed as hostile to phone companies,
> >> or at least AT&T, and I remember clearly people saying that Bell Labs
> >> would never have a location in CA as a result.
> > Here's what Larry Luckham told me in a private email that he's since
> > said could be copied to the list.
> >
> > Larry wrote:
> >> Of the thousands of web pages that I have posted the one of the Bell
> >> Labs photos is the one that generates a dozen queries a year.  Had no
> >> idea that would be the case when I posted it.  The photos are also the
> >> most ripped off and reposted of anything I've ever done.  But, to your
> >> points.
> >>
> >> The facility I set up in Oakland was temporary and for a specific
> >> experiment that ran for roughly 4 years.  You may recall that
> >> beginning in the mid 60's the Bell System was experiencing a huge and
> >> unpredicted demand for 411, information operator services.  The lead
> >> time to provide the trunking and other facilities for 411 operations
> >> was something like 25 years.  The public facing response was the "$55
> >> million dollar phone call" ad campaign intended to point customers
> >> back to printed directories.  The inward facing response was to figure
> >> out a way to handle each request for service faster so that the
> >> existing trunking and other facilities could meet the growing demand.
> >>
> >> At that time information operators relied on printed directories much
> >> the same as the customer's printed directory, except that theirs were
> >> loose leaf, reprinted monthly, and supplemented with a yellow daily
> >> addendum.  They were also printed in a larger format to make reading
> >> easier.  A division of the Labs called Business Information Systems
> >> Corp.  out of the Raritan River Center was tasked with the project and
> >> given a very short timeline.  A computer database and electronic
> >> display terminals driven by a very powerful search engine was the
> >> result.  Special operator terminals were designed and built by Western
> >> Electric.  The search engine was contracted out to Computer Corp. of
> >> America (CCA) which had been founded by some guys from Minsky's AI lab
> >> at MIT.  Then the idea was to try it out in a live environment.
> >> The San Francisco Bay Area was selected as reasonably representative
> >> and that's where I came in.  I was already managing the data center at
> >> the local Bell company, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph,
> >> San Francisco, so I was recruited to make it happen.  I built the
> >> mainframe data center, PT&T provided space in an information operating
> >> room a few blocks away and CCA came onsite to do the programming.
> >>
> >> The testing ran roughly 4 years.  I had moved on before it ended, but
> >> it was successful and was implanted, at least to some degree, but this
> >> shop was dismantled and everyone went home.  Then technology did what
> >> it always does, it ran over everything and changed the world.
> >> Along came the PC, the Internet, smart phones, etc.
> >>
> >> It's been a very long time and I'm sure I've forgotten, or
> >> misremembered stuff, but that's kind of what I remember.
> >> Hope it sheds some light.
>
>

[-- Attachment #2: Type: text/html, Size: 8933 bytes --]

^ permalink raw reply	[flat|nested] 17+ messages in thread

end of thread, back to index

Thread overview: 17+ messages (download: mbox.gz / follow: Atom feed)
-- links below jump to the message on this page --
2019-03-12 16:02 [TUHS] Bell Labs data center in 1969/70 Dan Cross
2019-03-12 17:14 ` Clem Cole
2019-03-12 17:17   ` Jon Steinhart
2019-03-12 17:29     ` Clem Cole
2019-03-12 17:31       ` Jon Steinhart
2019-03-12 17:42   ` Paul Winalski
2019-03-13  0:17   ` Greg 'groggy' Lehey
2019-03-13  1:37   ` Dave Horsfall
2019-03-13  8:41     ` Peter Jeremy
2019-03-14 22:12       ` Al Kossow
2019-03-13 13:25 Doug McIlroy
2019-03-14  8:10 ` Rob Pike
2019-03-15  4:03   ` Kevin Bowling
2019-03-16 21:30   ` Steve Johnson
2019-03-17 18:52     ` Ralph Corderoy
2019-03-17 19:39       ` Arthur Krewat
2019-03-18 15:04         ` John P. Linderman

The Unix Heritage Society mailing list

Archives are clonable: git clone --mirror http://inbox.vuxu.org/tuhs

Newsgroup available over NNTP:
	nntp://inbox.vuxu.org/vuxu.archive.tuhs


AGPL code for this site: git clone https://public-inbox.org/ public-inbox