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Posts Tagged ‘telephone

“We never live; we are always in the expectation of living”*…

 

0618_phone

 

Sure that hold music was annoying, grating, a punishment to brain cells, especially if it loops tightly or is particularly in-your-face, but you know what’d be worse? If there was no sound at all.

That was the point that a man named Alfred Levy made when he filed a patent application in 1962 for the “Telephone hold program system,” which is the very patent that led to the creation of hold music.

A 2014 Slate piece helpfully filled in the gaps on this story: Levy, a factory employee, stumbled upon the basic idea for hold music after a freak incident involving a wire and a steel girder. Oddly enough, when the wire touched the steel, it effectively turned the building into a giant radio, leading people on hold waiting for phone calls to actually hear music on the line, rather than waiting in silence.

It might sound far-fetched, but that’s the tale, apparently. Nonetheless, his patent filing, granted in 1966, does a great job of explaining why such a tool is necessary. He noted that switchboards and telephone operators increasingly were using hold buttons, which allow time to properly route calls through a switchboard. However, little consideration was being given to the person on the other end of the line, who understandably might get frustrated or concerned the call dropped if they don’t hear back after a while.

“Courteous telephone practice requires that a held caller be assured at reasonable intervals that the party to whom he wishes to speak still is busy but the pressure of her duties may prevent the operator from so advising the incoming caller so that he may be bereft of even this small consolation,” the patent filing stated. “In any event, listening to a completely unresponsive instrument is tedious and calls often are abandoned altogether or remade which leads to annoyance and a waste of time and money.”

A telephone hold system, he continues, is basically a way to pacify the person waiting for assistance, as it “assures the incoming caller that his call is being held and that he is not disconnected or forgotten.”

The timing of his invention was basically perfect, coming along right as the call center was making its first appearance

Via @ShortFormErnie and his always-illuminating Tedium, the unusual state of hold music, which works pretty much the opposite way that every other kind of music does, for reasons both technical and psychological: “Holding Patterns.”

* Voltaire

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As we wait, we might recall that it was on this date in 1976 that the CN Tower in Toronto opened.  At 1,815.3 ft it held the record for the world’s tallest free-standing structure for 32 years until 2007, when it was surpassed by the Burj Khalifa and was the world’s tallest tower until 2009 when it was surpassed by the Canton Tower.  In 1995, the CN Tower was declared one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. (It also belongs to the World Federation of Great Towers.)  It serves as a communications tower, the site of numerous broadcast (and reception) antennae for TV, radio, cell phone and microwave providers… and, of course, it is a signature icon of Toronto’s skyline.

480px-Toronto_-_ON_-_Toronto_Harbourfront7 source

 

Written by LW

June 26, 2019 at 1:01 am

“In a house where there are small children the bathroom soon takes on the appearance of the Old Curiosity Shop”*…

 

The first-prize design in Popular Science’s 1941 medicine cabinet contest. The improvements submitted by readers—drug lockboxes, his-and-her drawers, inner and outer mirrors—give some idea of the complex private-public boundaries that governed the use of medicine cabinets.

A ubiquitous element of our modern-day bathrooms, the medicine cabinet is also one of the home’s most particularized containers—stocked with substances and technologies used in healthcare and grooming, it functions both as personal pharmacy and private salon. Indeed, the medicine cabinet emerged across the early part of the twentieth century not just in tandem with public health policy initiatives but also, importantly, with the developing consumer market for the goods and tools of personal care. Its signature aesthetic—mirror, glass, and gleaming metal—would seem to have as much in common with the presentational seductions of the department store display case as with the sanitary spaces of the physician’s examining room.

As historian Deanna Day has written, stewardship of this container—as with so many of the domestic responsibilities associated with practices of health and bodily maintenance—has long been understood to be a task to be undertaken by women. A well-stocked and carefully curated medicine cabinet conveyed care and successful home management, while an overstuffed or unconsidered one ran afoul of received ideals of motherhood. Yet while women were responsible for the cabinet’s care and contents, certain products essential to their own health and hygiene were long thought to be inimical to it. Jeffrey Kastner spoke with Day, currently a research fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation…

Explore the history and meaning of (what are arguably) our most intimate containers at “Bringing the Drugstore Home.” [Via]

* Robert Benchley

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As we clean our mirrors, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that the first residential Trimline telephone in the U.S. was placed into service by the Michigan Bell Telephone Company. It was rolled out across the country by ATT in 1965 (for an optional $1 monthly extra charge).

The dial and hang-up button were no longer on a remote base, but instead integrated into the handset, midway between the microphone and speaker. A call could thus be dialed from the handset alone– more convenient in the kitchen or while in bed (though still at that time rarely in the bathroom). In 1977, Fortune selected the Trimline as one of the country’s 25 best-designed products.

source

 

Written by LW

October 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore always carry a small snake”*…

 

During the 1820s, thousands of folks along the Erie Canal corri­dor were … succumbing to the mind-blasting effects of raw alcohol. America was reeling through the most phenomenal drinking binge in its history. Hordes of citizens were living their lives in the woozy, dislocated haze of permanent inebriation.

Western farmers who grew barley, corn, and rye found it more profitable to ferment and distill their crops into strong liquor than to ship the grain to market. Whiskey was plentiful and cheap. Each man older than fifteen was drinking on average fourteen gallons of hundred-proof whiskey every year. By the middle of the decade, more than a thousand distillers were operating in New York State. Whis­key was cheaper than wine or beer, more readily available than im­ported luxuries like tea and coffee, safer to drink than water.

Whiskey was considered ‘so conducive to health,’ a journalist wrote in 1830, ‘that no sex, and scarcely any age, were deemed ex­empt from its application.’ Children drank. Adults deemed it more patriotic to drink whiskey than French wine or Dutch gin. Liquor filled the role that coffee would later assume as a morning bracer. A glass of whiskey with breakfast was commonplace.

A man need not go to a tavern: he could stop for a glass of whiskey at a grocery or candy store. He could down a shot at a barber shop. Theaters served strong drink. Millers provided the refreshment to waiting farmers. Militia musters always ended with heroic drinking. Casual sellers of grog set up bars in their basements.

Men during this period habitually drank at work. Before the spread of factories, artisans typically operated workshops that em­ployed a dozen or so journeymen and apprentices. The master was expected to provide ale or whiskey for his employees’ dinner and breaks. He often drank with them. He tolerated a degree of absen­teeism on what was known as Saint Monday, as workers recovered from Sunday binges…

– From Jack Kelly’s Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal, excerpted in the ever-illuminating Delancey Place.

More at “The peak of American intoxication.”

* W.C. Fields

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As we head down the hatch, we might recall that it was on this date in 1844 that Captain J.N. Taylor of the Royal Navy first demonstrated the fog horn.  At the time, it was called a telephone (to mean a far-signaling instrument to be used on ships, railway trains, etc.).

 source (and background)

 Happy National Pecan Pie Day

Written by LW

July 12, 2016 at 1:01 am

“TELEPHONE n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance”*…

 

Christian Marclay’s “Telephones” (1995), a 7 1/2-minute compilation of brief Hollywood film clips that creates a narrative of its own. These linked-together snippets of scenes involve innumerable well-known actors such as Cary Grant, Tippi Hedren, Ray Milland, Humphrey Bogart and Meg Ryan, who dial, pick up the receiver, converse, react, say good-bye and hang up. In doing so, they express a multitude of emotions–surprise, desire, anger, disbelief, excitement, boredom–ultimately leaving the impression that they are all part of one big conversation. The piece moves easily back and forth in time, as well as between color and black-and-white, aided by Marclay’s whimsical notions of continuity…

email readers click here for video

More on “Telephones” here; and on Marclay, here.

And as a bonus, this from burgerfiction.com:

email readers click here for video

* Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

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As we check caller ID, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that Charles F. Jenkins was the first to use city telephone lines to transmit a facsimile photo from 1519 Connecticut Ave in Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Navy Radio Station NOF at Anacostia– a demonstration for representatives of U.S.Navy and the Post Office Dept.  (Earlier in the year, on June 11, a photograph had been sent by radio across the Atlantic from Rome to Bar Harbor, Maine.)

Jenkins is better remembered as a pioneer of early cinema and one of the inventors of television– he racked up over 400 patents, mostly in those fields– and as the recipient of the first commercial television license.

 source

 

Written by LW

October 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

“It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar”*…

 

A professor of physiotherapy, Dr. Curran Pope’s practice embraced “diseases of the mind and nervous system”, which he treated with both electro-therapy, and hydrotherapy in his own sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky.  In 1909, he published Practical Hydrotherapy: A Manual for Students and Practitioners.

As the book’s contents list suggests, Pope considered hydrotherapy – treatment in which the temperature or pressure of water is used – as a viable method for curing anything from diabetes and heart disease to paranoia and alcoholism. The treatments are comprised of baths, douches, enemas, steam, and wet sheets, which are applied in various temperatures and orders depending on the ailment. Pope believed the body to heal itself and that water could aid the healing or indeed help to prevent diseases from occurring. He also believed in testing the methods on himself. He writes in the preface:

Much information and a clearer insight than mere description can give, is to note the physiological action of hydrotherapy by “putting yourself in his place.” One application of a cold jet douche to the spine gives more realistic information than pages of description. I therefore make the suggestion of “practice on yourself” first. Many experiments herein mentioned have had the author as principal party in interest.

Get wet at Public Domain Review, where one will find many more illustrations like the one above; then page through Dr. Pope’s book at the Internet Archive.

* Pablo Picasso

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As we dip our toes, we might send temperate birthday greetings to William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin; he was born on this date in 1824.  A physicist, mathematician, and engineer, he has been described as the Newton of his era:  At the University of Glasgow, where he taught for over half a century, he did important work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and did much to unify the emerging discipline of physics in its modern form.  He worked closely with mathematics professor Hugh Blackburn in his work, especially the development and application of trigonometry.  He had a side career as an electric telegraph engineer and inventor, which propelled him into the public eye (and ensured his wealth, fame, and honor– his work on the transatlantic telegraph project earned him a knighthood from Queen Victoria).  And he had extensive maritime interests, among which he was most noted for his work on the mariner’s compass, which had previously been limited in reliability.

Absolute temperatures are stated in units of kelvin in his honor. While the existence of a lower limit to temperature (absolute zero) was known prior to his work, it was Lord Kelvin who determined its correct value as approximately −273.15 degree Celsius, or −459.67 degree Fahrenheit.

 source

 

“Mr. Watson — Come here — I want to see you”*…

 

 click here (and again on the image there) for a much larger, scrollable version

There were 5.8 million telephones in the Bell/AT&T network in 1910, when this map was published. It shows the uneven development of early telephone service in the United States, and gives us a sense of which places could speak to each other over Bell’s long-distance lines in the first decade of the 20th century.

The Bell Telephone Company, which was founded in 1877, faced some competition early on from Western Union, but then enjoyed a virtual monopoly on telephone service until 1894, when some of Bell’s patents expired. Sociologist Claude Fischer writes of the years after that expiration: “Within a decade literally thousands of new telephone ventures emerged across the United States.” Some of those independents went into rural areas that Bell had not covered, because the company had focused on developing service in the business centers of the East Coast.By the time this map was printed, Bell had tried several different strategies, clean and dirty, to fight back against its competition, including (Fischer writes) “leveraging its monopoly on long-distance service,” pursing patent suits, controlling vendors of telephone equipment, and simply using its deep pockets to outlast smaller companies that tried to enter the market.

Theodore N. Vail, who took over in 1907, changed strategies, accepting limited government regulation while buying competitors or bringing them into the Bell system. The map shows Bell’s market penetration in 1910, three years after Vail took over. Some rural areas—Oklahoma, Iowa, northern and eastern Texas—are surprisingly well-covered, while others in the Southeast remain empty.

The discrepancy between coverage in the East and the West is perhaps the most striking aspect of the map. California remains sparsely served, and no long-distance lines reach all the way from coast to coast. AT&T constructed the first transcontinental line in 1914.

– Rebecca Onion, “A Telephone Map of the United States Shows Where You Could Call Using Ma Bell in 1910.”

* Alexander Graham Bell (the first intelligible words spoken over the telephone, March 10, 1876)

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As we listen for the dial tone, we might recall that it was on this date in 1857 that Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville received a patent for his “phonautograph,” the earliest known device for recording sound.  Intended as a laboratory instrument for the study of acoustics, it transcribed sound waves as undulations (or other deviations) in a line traced on smoke-blackened paper or glass.

Hear a sample– an excerpt of “Au Clair de la Lune” recorded by Scott himself in 1860, and believed to be the earliest recording of the human voice– here.

An early phonautograph (1859). The barrel on this version is made of plaster of paris.

 source

 

Written by LW

March 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton”*…

 

A section of the Endonym Map

 

An endonym is the name for a place, site or location in the language of the people who live there. These names may be officially designated by the local government or they may simply be widely used.

This map depicts endonyms of the countries of the world in their official or national languages. In cases where a country has more than one national or official language, the language that is most widely used by the local population is shown…

See and explore the whole world at  “Endonyms of the World.”

* George III

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As we contemplate connecting across cultural differences, we might recall that it was on this date in 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell first spoke through his experimental “telephone”– to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, in the next room.  Bell wrote in his notebook, “I then shouted into M [the mouthpiece] the following sentence: ‘Mr. Watson–come here–I want to see you.’ To my delight he came and declared that he had heard and understood what I said.”

Bell’s lab notebook, March 10, 1876

source

Written by LW

March 10, 2015 at 1:01 am

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