The undertaker who revolutionized telephones

How about a hit upside the head with a history lesson in telecommunications?

You’re still here?

Okay, buckle up. In the late 1800’s, a paranoid undertaker from Kansas worried that human operators were routing phone calls to his competitors. You see, back in the day an operator (usually female) would manually connect your phone calls for you. No dialing. If you’ve ever watched an episode of “Lassie” where Timmy falls in the well, you’ve seen this in action. So you would pick up the phone and ask the operator lady to connect you to a certain person or business. If you asked for an undertaker, for example, she was free to route your call to whichever undertaker she liked the best. This really torqued off our heroic undertaker, Almon Brown Strowger, who, rather than just blogging about it, set out to solve the problem.

Strowger invented a new kind of relay (which is EE speak for a fancy switch) that could be operated remotely by sending it electrical pulses. The relay could connect phone calls automatically based on what you dialed on your rotary phone. By hooking a bunch of Strowger relays together, you could route calls to any other phone, without the need for a human in the loop.

You’ve probably seen these old phones with rotary dials. That’s why we have ’em. All because a disgruntled undertaker saw a problem and decided to fix it.

What torques you off? Why don’t you go out and invent something to fix it?

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