Tuesday, 27 June 2017

1883 - Telephone Operators

On November 15, 1883, the Spectator carried an account of what work was like, in the local office for the telephone operators, also commonly called the ‘hello girls.’ A visit to the room where the switchboards were located to observe the work, followed by an interview with the local manager of the telephone company :

          “The work of a telephone operator is not, as some suppose, mere play. It has advantages, of course, but it has disadvantages as well.

          “A case is reported of Miss Bessie Goslyn having recently lost her voice completely through constant use of the vocal organs. Cases have also been known where lady operators have had their hearing more or less affected.

          “Of late, however, the effect has not been noticeable, owing, no doubt, to the improvements of the instruments, and the introduction of the transmitter.

          “Manager Dunston, of the Hamilton branch, says that, although the operators in his office are kept busy pretty much all day, they suffer no in convenience. Two operators have been in the office for three years, and the only noticeable effect that the work has had is to quicken their hearing. This is demonstrated by the fact that a message by one not used to the instruments can be easily taken by an operator.

          “The operators speak in a tone below the ordinary pitch used in conversation, and so close to the transmitter, as to every word being distinctly heard at the other of the wires. The farther the distance has to travel, the louder the operator has to speak in order to be distinctly heard, but still the pitch never raises as high as that used in ordinary conversation.

          “The number of messages which an operator receives during a day cannot easily be estimated, but there are always enough, except between 12 and 1o’clock, and after 4 o’clock, to keep the operator from novel reading in which they are supposed to indulge.”1

                1 “Telephone Operating : The Effect It Has Upon the Speech and Hearing of the Operator”

Hamilton Spectator     November 15, 1884.

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