1945: Telephone Industry
Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.
1945: Telephone Industry
Telephone activity continued at its highest tempo throughout 1945. Until war ended, the industry concentrated on supplying all the communication facilities and service the government, the armed forces and war industry required. At no time throughout the conflict did a telephone need of any of those agencies go unfilled. The policy of supplying war-essential communication needs first, however, made it impossible to meet concurrently every telephone requirement of the home front.
Orders for new service that could not be filled because of the lack of telephone instruments, switchboards and wire reached above 2,100,000 by war's end. But the manufacturing plants of the industry, with the cancellation of war orders, proceeded to swing as swiftly as possible into the production of peacetime telephone facilities. By the end of the year, more than a million telephone instruments, together with telephone switchboards, wire and cable, had been produced for normal use. But, because manufacture and installation of complex switchboard and dial switching equipment requires a great deal of time and highly skilled work, it was expected that it would take many months before all orders held for lack of such equipment could be filled.
Telephones in Use.
By the end of September, 1945, the number of telephones in use in the United States numbered some 27,220,000. About 21,883,000 of those were owned and operated by the Bell System. The balance was served by more than 6,100 independent telephone companies and more than 60,000 rural systems, nearly all of which interconnect with the Bell System to provide nationwide service.
More local calls were handled in the twelve months ending September 30, 1945, than in any previous year. During that period, approximately 103,900,000 local calls per day (average) were made, compared with 101,300,000 per day for the previous twelve months.
Long Distance Calls.
A record also was made in the volume of long distance calls. For the year ending September 30, 1945, toll and long distance calls averaged about 4,800,000 daily, compared with 4,400,000 per day for the previous twelve months. The American Telephone and Telegraph Company reported that during the first ten months of 1945, a total of about 162,900,000 calls was completed over the longer circuits, compared with approximately 145,800,000 during the first ten months of 1944.
This increase in the number of long distance calls occurred without the telephone companies being able to add commensurately to the equipment required to handle it. Consequently, the companies found it necessary to continue seeking voluntary cooperation from the public in restricting the use of long distance service. When the circuits were over-crowded, users were asked to limit their calls to five minutes. Patrons also were requested to refrain from using the lines from 7 to 10 p.m. in order to give service men and women an opportunity to call home. Essential calls directly concerned with the military or with public health and safety continued to receive priority handling so they would go through without possibility of delay.
During the first ten months of the year, connections on calls made over substantial distances were completed on an average of 3.4 minutes with connections on 84 per cent being made while the caller remained at the telephone.
Research and War Production.
Some of the wartime activities of the research and production units of the telephone industry were disclosed publicly following the ending of the war. It was revealed that telephone laboratories were very largely responsible for the development of radar, as well as improved telephonic and radio combat communication equipment. Telephone factories in turn manufactured those complex devices in great quantities. One telephone manufacturer whose factories were devoted almost exclusively to war production was disclosed as the largest single source of radar, supplying more than 56,000 sets. The same organization also turned out more than 1,600 electrical gun directors and computers; more than three-quarters of a million radio receivers and nearly a half-million radio transmitters; more than 1,700,000 microphones and 1,400,000 headsets; more than 4,300,000 miles of wire in cables. That production was, of course, in addition to the great quantities of field telephones, switchboards and field wire supplied to the armed forces.
Great progress in telephone communication was indicated for the immediate future. For example, during the year the Bell System announced a $2,000,000,000 construction program that not only will provide the facilities needed to satisfy present backed-up demand, but will advance a number of developments expected to contribute importantly to telephone communication of the future.
Developments in Television.
The telephone industry's coaxial cable program went forward, with nearly 1,750 miles of cable placed in the ground by the end of 1945. Coaxial is a unique type of cable consisting essentially of a copper conductor within a copper 'pipe,' the latter serving as both a shield and a return conductor. One pair of coaxial conductors will transmit as many as 480 telephone conversations simultaneously, without mutual interference. Coaxial also will transmit television pictures effectively. The Bell System planned to complete several thousand more miles of coaxial cable within a few years. This will not only provide additional circuits for telephone conversations; it can be made the basis for a nation-wide television network.
Radio relay as a method of telephone and television transmission also was being studied by the telephone industry and relay systems were under construction between New York and Boston, and between Chicago and Milwaukee. By this method, microwaves are relayed from station to station, the relay points being about thirty miles apart. If experimental use proves successful, such a system of transmission could be made a part of the nation-wide telephone network, especially in areas where wire construction is economically impracticable. Radio relay also is expected to be a suitable transmission medium for television.
Direct Dialing System.
Direct dialing of any telephone in the country by any operator, without assistance, was materializing. Automatic switching equipment was being installed in toll offices and a national numbering plan was being evolved. Telephone people expect that within the next decade direct dialing of any telephone by operators will be standard practice.
Mobile Radio Telephones.
Mobile radio telephone service also came a step nearer reality in 1945 when the telephone companies began installation of experimental equipment at several points. With that system in operation, a person in a radiotelephone-equipped vehicle will be able to converse with anyone at any other telephone.
Rural Telephone Expansion Program.
Rural telephone service will receive a boost from the industry's expansion program. Although more than two-thirds of all farm families already were within reach of present telephone lines, new economical line construction methods were being utilized to extend the service to all rural areas. Telephone engineers experimented with the use of rural electric power lines for transmitting telephone calls, and the development of short-wave radio was expected to provide a way of bringing telephone communication to persons in remote areas.
Overseas telephone service, limited during the war principally to government and press calls, was reopened to most points for general use. With complete restoration of overseas service, it will be possible to reach almost any telephone in the world from any telephone in the United States.