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Telephone Operators

History

In the years since Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for his invention in 1876, the telephone has evolved from being a novelty gadget to an indispensable part of our daily lives. It is now possible to talk to someone in virtually any corner of the world on the telephone. Technological breakthroughs have allowed us to replace inefficient telephone cables with fiber optic lines and satellites for transmitting signals. Some phone features that we take for granted, such as conference calls, call waiting, and automatic call forwarding, have been developed only in the past few decades.

Technology has also changed the job of the telephone operator. In the past, operators had to connect every phone call by hand, wrestling with hundreds of different cables and phone jacks and trying to match the person making the call to the number being dialed. Today, telephone switchboards are electronic, and the operator can connect many more calls by merely pushing buttons or dialing the proper code or number. Computers have replaced many of the old duties of telephone switchboard operators, such as directory assistance and the "automatic intercept" of nonoperating numbers. Still, telephone operators are needed to perform special duties and add a human touch to telecommunications.

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