Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sorry, honey (1979 technology issues)

I've joined Facebook and connected with a lot of high school and college friends, and find that I'm doing a lot of reminiscing. Because of this, I thought I'd go back to my senior year in high school and see what was happening in the business world on March 5, 1979.

Luckily for me, TIME Magazine published an issue on that day, and an article addressed a pressing technological issue - namely, the newfangled Personal Business Exchanges (PBXs) and Computerized Business Exchanges (CBXs) that were beginning to appear.

Sometimes they didn't work due to computer problems (yes, you could have a computer in your telephone!), and sometimes they didn't work due to operator error:

Even when operating smoothly, the phones' increased capabilities can create headaches. One Manhattan office worker who had called his wife at home later tried to get through to a secretary in his office. Accidentally pressing the code that redials the previously called outside number, he was again connected with his wife. Not realizing whom he was talking to, he called her by the secretary's name. Before he became aware of the situation, his wife recognized his voice. A rather strained round of apologies and explanations followed.

One unusual feature of the new systems is that businesses would...get ready for them:

Because customers buy the systems outright rather than leasing them, simple functions like moving phones and changing numbers can be performed easily by company employees at minimal cost.

But the PBX market was still dominated by Ma Bell. The AT&T breakup hadn't happened yet.
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