1950: 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.
1950: Telephone Industry
The U.S. telephone industry during 1950 made great strides in the expansion of its television-network and long-distance facilities by installing large amounts of equipment for those on the waiting list. Military communications requirements increased sharply as a result of the Korean invasion.
Number of Telephones in Service.
The industry added 2,200,000 telephones during the year to bring the number in service to 42,900,000, of which 35,300,000 were operated by the Bell System.
Of all U.S. telephones, 30,000,000 are residence installations, serving about 65 per cent of all U.S. families. In 1950 Evanston, Ill., led the nation and the world by providing 99 per cent of its families with telephone service.
The latest available world statistics, those of Jan. 1, 1950, estimated the world total of telephones at approximately 70,300,000, in which number the United States led with about 60 per cent. The United Kingdom had the second largest total of 5,177,370 telephones, and Canada was third with 2,700,000.
The U.S. per capita telephone development was 27 per 100 persons; Sweden was second with 23; and Canada third with 20. The world as a whole had 3 telephones per 100 population.
New York City, with a total of 2,956,832 instruments, continued to lead the world's cities in the number of telephones. In this category London was second with 1,526,548 telephones, and Chicago third with 1,495,900.
Washington, D.C., had more telephones per capita, 59 per 100 persons, than any other city of more than 50,000 population. San Francisco was second with 55 instruments per 100 persons, and Stockholm third with 47.
The telephone industry set new records in the number of calls handled in 1950. An average of 140 million local and long distance calls per day were completed during the year, an increase of 8 million completed calls per day over the 1949 figure. About 6,400,000 conversations, compared with 6,215,000 in 1949, were transmitted as toll and long distance calls.
Plants and Equipment.
In territories served by the Bell Telephone Companies approximately 300 large building projects were completed in 1950 at a total cost of 65 million dollars.
Shipments by the Western Electric Company, the manufacturing and supply unit of the Bell System, included 52 billion conductor feet of exchange cable and enough local central office switching equipment to serve about two million telephones.
The industry continued its program of converting non-dial telephones to automatic operation. In 1950 Bell Telephone Companies installed 900,000 dial telephones, bringing the number of automatic Bell telephones to 26,500,000, or 75 per cent of the total in service. In addition, nearly 4,500 new long-distance circuits were added to the Bell System network, achieving a total of 90,000 in operation.
The industry's construction and service improvement program in 1950 cost nearly a billion dollars, most of which was spent for Bell System facilities. At the year's end the total investment in plant and equipment had reached $11,200,000,000 for the industry and $10,100,000,000 for the Bell System.
The number of stockholders of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, parent company of the Bell System, reached a new high of more than 980,000. Other large non-Bell companies and their number of stockholders were General Telephone Corp., 17,500; Telephone Bond and Share Co., 5,500; and Rochester Telephone Co., 4,650.
Demand for telephones continued at a high pace, matching the industry's new installations. At the end of the year, the Bell Telephone Companies had on hand more than 800,000 orders for new service, but these were being held for lack of facilities. In addition, 1,700,000 requests made by existing customers for better grades of service remained unfilled. Nevertheless, three out of four people who applied for service in 1950 received their telephones without delay. The non-Bell companies also had large waiting lists but were making substantial progress in the installation of new telephones.
During 1950, 250,000 telephones were installed by the Bell System in rural areas, bringing the total gain in new rural telephones since VJ-Day to 1,500,000. Another 60,000 rural telephones were installed by the non-Bell companies. The total cost of the industry's rural expansion program in 1950 was estimated at $130,000,000.
The Rural Electrification Administration during its first year in the rural telephone field granted 41 loans amounting to slightly more than $12,000,000. Of these loans, 14 went to cooperative companies and 27 to existing telephone companies. Approximately 31,000 new customers will be provided telephone service as a result of the R.E.A. program.
The telephone industry had in its employ at the end of the year more than 700,000 men and women. Of these 602,000 were Bell System employees, including the Western Electric Company and the Bell Telephone Laboratories. About three fifths of all telephone workers are women.
The total Bell System payroll in 1950 amounted to approximately $2,700,000,000.
The Bell System continued to expand its network television facilities. Twenty-two new TV stations in 17 cities were added to the existing networks, bringing the total number of cities with network television facilities to 43.
Approximately 9,000 channel miles of coaxial cable and radio relay circuits were installed during 1950, a 100 per cent increase in the total channel mileage devoted to television network transmission. Both the cable and relay links are capable of transmitting video signals as well as telephone messages.
The longest radio relay system to date was built during the year from New York to Omaha, via Chicago. Consisting of 54 relay stations, the system utilizes directional antennas to beam telephone and television signals from one station to the next. A radio relay route from Omaha to the West Coast is scheduled for completion late in 1951.
Operator Toll Dialing.
During 1950 equipment was installed which permitted operators to dial long-distance calls straight through to 400 distant cities and towns without the assistance of other operators. Counting those cities already connected by this system, approximately 1,000 localities can be reached by the toll-dialing method.
Nearly 35 per cent of the nation's toll traffic was being handled by operator-toll dialing at the year's end. In addition, equipment set up in several areas enabled three and one-half million customers to dial their own calls to near-by cities or communities beyond their local calling area.
Additional facilities were being installed which will further extend the dialing of out-of-town calls both by operators and telephone users.
Telephone calls to 85 foreign countries, or areas, and ships on the high seas, via Bell System radiotelephone stations, increased in 1950 to a total of 720,000 messages, or about 15 per cent.
By the end of the year mobile telephone service was available in 141 areas covering about 500 communities. The Bell Telephone companies were providing general mobile service to 9,000 vehicles, of all types, which were placing calls at the rate of about 300,000 per month. In addition to general mobile telephone service, the Bell companies had under contract approximately 5,000 mobile telephones on a private-system basis. These are complete systems for the exclusive use of specific customers; the telephone companies' only service is the installation and maintenance of the equipment.