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Monday, March 27, 2017

Telephone Industry Transformation – Switchboard to Dial!

Communications, History
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
12:28 pm

Switchboard

This morning, I spent a while watching some old videos about transformation in the telephone industry.  Way back before my time, the growing telephone network depended on thousands of young women working as telephone operators (boys didn’t work out so well).

The need for telephone operators was so great that AT&T produced a movie “Operator!” to describe the wonderful opportunity for a career as a telephone switchboard operator!

 

However, as demand for telephone service boomed, someone estimated that it would soon take all the young women in the nation to work as telephone operators!  The solution – self-dialed telephones. it soon turned out that everyone who used a telephone became his or her own telephone operator!

But apparently, using a dial telephone was difficult enough that ever-so-scintillating training movies were produced …

Just think — most of today’s young people don’t know how to operation a dial telephone! A lost art indeed!

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First Round-the-World Telegram – 105 Years Ago!

Communications, History, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, August 20, 2016
9:42 am

Oh, how far technology has come in the last century!  As related by History.com, on August 20, 1911 (105 years ago today) a dispatcher in the New York Times office sent the first telegram around the world via commercial service. 

The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message, reading simply “This message sent around the world,” left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations–the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later. It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.

Telegram

In these days of ubiquitous, near instantaneous global communications at our fingertips, it is a bit hard to fathom that a round-the-world message took over 16 minutes to reach its destination.  But in a time not too far removed from the Pony Express, 16 minutes was a real breakthrough.

As my Dad likes to say, “We stand on the broad shoulders of those who have gone before!”

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US Postal Service is 241 years old today!

History, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
9:30 pm

Franklinphone

As reported today by History.com,

On this day in 1775, the U.S. postal system is established by the Second Continental Congress, with Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster general. 

Isn’t it ironic that we could easily imagine Benjamin Franklin as an enthusiastic early adopter of technology that is steadily rendering the traditional postal service obsolete?

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Benjamin Franklin – Electricity and Freedom!

Freedom, History
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, June 10, 2016
1:54 pm

Today, June 10, 2016, is the 264th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s electrifying experience of flying a kite in a thunderstorm and capturing a lightning strike in a Leyden Jar.  He is fortunate that he wasn’t killed!

Franklin

Franklin’s fascination with electricity is the one of the reasons he is a personal hero to me. I share his interest in electricity, but I was able to learn about it in safer environment.

Another, more significant reason Benjamin Franklin is a hero to me was his commitment to the cause of Freedom.  He is the only one of the Founding Fathers who signed all four documents fundamental to the creation of the U.S.: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris (1783), which established peace with Great Britain, and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

A print of one of my favorite paintings by Del Parson hangs in our living room. Entitled “The Old Man Wept,” it depicts Benjamin Franklin shedding a tear as he signs the Constitution of the United States.

Oldman

Thank you, Mr. Franklin!

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Tiananmen Square, the Internet and Freedom

Communications, Freedom, History
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, June 3, 2016
11:10 am

Twenty-seven years ago today, on June 3, 1989, government officials in the People’s Republic of China authorized its soldiers and tanks to reclaim Beijing’s Tiananmen Square from protesting students and others seeking democratic reform. By nightfall on June 4, Chinese troops had forcibly cleared the square, killing hundreds and arresting thousands of demonstrators and suspected dissidents.

China

During this time, a graduate student from China was working at the same company where I was employed.  I witnessed him using the Internet to exchange messages with freedom-loving compatriots all over the world.  He was somewhat frightened that the Chinese government would discover what he was doing and harm his family back in China, so he asked me to not tell others what he was doing at that time.

As I watched what he was doing, I realized what a powerful force global electronic communications could be in the support of personal freedom. I’m sure the tremendous advances in personal freedom that have occurred in China since that time are due at least in part, to interpersonal communications via the Internet.  If people can communicate, it is really difficult for governments to suppress them and deny freedom.

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Happy Birthday, Levi’s Jeans!

History
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, May 20, 2016
3:45 pm

Levi’s blue jeans have been a staple in my life for a long time.  Today I am wearing a new pair I bought last week. The Levi’s brand is quintessential Americana. In fact, complex.com dubbed Levis as the eighth most iconic brand of all time!

Today, we celebrate the birthday of Levi’s. According to History.com:

On this day in 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss and Reno, Nevada, tailor Jacob Davis are given a patent to create work pants reinforced with metal rivets, marking the birth of one of the world’s most famous garments: blue jeans.

Levis

The pair of Levi’s I am wearing now don’t have classic copper rivets, but I like the comfort and fit. I suppose that wearing Levi’s is the closest I’ll ever come to being “hip.”

 

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Have Fun Today – Throw a Frisbee!

History
Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, January 23, 2016
7:56 am

On this day, way back in 1957, the first patch of Frisbees were produced by Wham-O toy company! Who can imagine life without Frisbees? Have fun!

Frisbee

 

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My Awe in New Gismos

History, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
3:33 pm

Camera mini

It has been my privilege to experience astounding advances in electronics and computer technology during my lifetime.  I started poring over electronics magazines like Popular Electronics and mail order catalogs from Allied ElectronicsRadio ShackLafayette Radio Electronics, and Heathkit over 50 years ago.  I was amazed then with the neat things I saw and I am still amazed at new stuff I see in 2016!

I rarely click on the ads that appear on Facebook, but was intrigued today by this little ad. Just think of it!  A digital camera with lens, for ten bucks! And this wasn’t advertised in an obscure parts catalog – it was posted on Facebook!

I don’t know how well this gismo works. There are probably things that are even more impressive. But the convergence of digital electronics, optics, miniaturization and manufacturing techniques to produce something like this for so little money fills me with awe just like some new gismo I read about in my youth. Really cool!

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