Author Topic: The Imperial Telephone Exchange  (Read 23990 times)

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Offline David_Newell

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The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« on: April 12, 2004, 05:14:55 AM »
A couple of years ago I asked BOB about the Telephone Excahnge at the Alexander Palace or Tsarskoye Selo. I was a telephonist for many years and I was trained by the GPO and worked on government switchboards and on international. I would love to know more about the exchange at the AP and is it true it was operated by Guards Men. Bob said when he had time he would post a page. But just a few details would be lovely.

David Newell, London

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2004, 10:20:47 PM »
I don't know if they were men or women.  The telephone operators in the city were mostly female.  I can't imagine it would have seemed proper at the time to have a woman introduce the Tsar or Tsarina on the phone.  They had a separate switchboard in the AP downstairs so they had their own operators.

Bob

Robert_Hall

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2004, 03:01:56 AM »
Here we go now- I also spent some years with telephone companies [they changed over the years] .
 Having done a lot of research on the profession [operator/telephonist] I would bet anything that the  switchboard was operated by guardsmen.
Female telephone operators did not  come into fashion until WWI as the men tended to be rather rude.
[also, they were called to miliary service rather than cushy jobs on a switchboard].
I am still quite proud of the profession. It is not commonly known that men/boys did it first.

Hope this is not  "over the top".

Robert

Offline David_Newell

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2004, 03:54:10 AM »
Bravo !! Robert, I was a GPO Telephonist (not operator) from 1977 untill 1986. I worked on many large gov swtiches and was a supervisor for many of those years.
I was told by an engineer that the Imperial Telephonists in Russia were guards men. If you recieved a call from the Tsarina or a member of the Imperial family you would hear "You are called from the apartments of Her Imperial Majesty" or who ever was calling. I am not sure how accurate this was but I think its about right. I know that the exchange was in the basement of the AP or within the Tsarskoye Selo Park. It may have been a branch board to the main town exchange. I have many funny tales of my time on International with the GPO. It was all cord boards then and a very iportant job, oh alas how times have changed.

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2004, 10:45:49 AM »
The city exchange for Tsarskoe was in the Lyceum.

FYI the first telegraph in Russia was installed at the AP as well as the firsdt radio phone and Tsarskoe had the first radio transmission station in Russia.  It was also the first city in Russia to receive street lighting.

Bob

Offline David_Newell

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2004, 11:15:47 AM »
I suppose with the Imperial Family spending such lengthy periods there it makes perfect sense.

Robert_Hall

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2004, 07:43:01 PM »
There happens to be a fairly well known story about the present QEII placing a call to her mother [the QM] it went:
Your majesty, her majesty, several times before either one of them got to the phone !
I would imagine the same sort of protocal was used in the N&A days. A servant, staff.aide or lady  would call the switchboard to place the call to whomever was desired, then a brief conversation would take place. No hellos or "goodbyes".
I think the phone system was very  expensive for most people & used mainly for gov. business.
Any personal messages were either hand delivered or telegraphed.
Much the same as today, as the telephone system is a lot less secure than one would think. It was downright  "open" back then.
Like David, I have many stories about  "telephone" life, however, I do still hold our " secrecy of communications" laws in respect.
But it is fun when one gets a group of veteran telephone operators together- the dirt we could tell !!

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2004, 07:54:14 PM »
Robert,
The telephone service was indeed wildly expensive at first. Bell secured the first contract in the 1890s. The fee was the rough equivalent of today's $2,500 per phone per installation, and the same amount per year in fees!
However, in 1905, the Bell contract expired and Ericsson secured the new contract and the rates dropped significantly, to about $75 per phone for installation and similar rates per year. By 1913, telephones were everywhere in Petersburg and Moscow. Every middle class home, shop, restaurant and business had one.

Robert_Hall

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2004, 08:42:40 PM »
Well now, that is something I did not know. Erickson, the Swedish mobile moghuls?  How interesting.  I shall add that to my "phone lore"
In 1913 was not $75 pretty costly?  {I do not know how to convert from past to present}  I can understand businesses & even middle class having a  "phone".  But unlike our systems, there would have been one only for the house,  which a servant would usually answer, I think. Much like the "front door" someone else handled that sort of thing.
Also, calls were charged an right enormous price, which is why staff were not allowed to use the phone for personal use.  I do not have a Russian phone bill from that era, but have others  & a charge was levied just for picking up the  reciever !
Of course, the Palace would most likely have been under a different  billing system- I think.
Just my thoughts.
Robert

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2004, 09:00:29 AM »
Robert,
One mistake (I too should check my sources instead of "off the top of my head!).  The reduced rate was $700 per phone, not 75! Those figures are a rough equivalent of the cost in modern dollars.  The original cost was 250 rubles, reduced to 70 rubles. And yes, it is the same Ericson company as today.

David Newell

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2004, 10:23:42 AM »
Robert will Love this one. I remember on passing my initial training in September 1977 being told that I had attained GPO standard and how proud I should be. As I joined the service as we called it, it was still staffed by many ladies who had been in the forces and we called our customers subscribers. As it all belonged to the government then we were civil servants and had to sign the offical secrets act. I can still remember placing calls for subs from London to families abroad, the squeels of delight to my asking "Are you Melbourne (any number here), this is London I have a (subs name here), will you accept the charges. It was a great job!!! Asking for assistance from the girls at White Plains New York and connecting around the world. All gone now.

I knew that there were Ericcson telephones in the palace. But I did not know that they also did the engineering side too.

Robert_Hall

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2004, 11:56:13 AM »
Well, David, I have a few years on you, I'm afraid. I started as one of the first male operators after the phone company lost a sex discrimantion suit in 1972. At the same time, women were finally allowed into the higher paying plant jobs. I worked the last cord board in Los Angeles & some of those old girls had been there since WWII !  One of the regular "nuissance" callers we had was some jerk who called Buckingham Palce-collect, in those days the Palace accepted the charges-  Anyway, years later, I had become a supervisor & this same person was making the same calls, except he had to go through a  supervisor & the palace had stopped accepting his calls.  Eventually he was banned from more than one call a year. A long legal process between the Palace & AT&T. Obviously I got to know the palace swichboard operators & eventually met several of them.  Anyway, the point of all this is- yes, paper logs were kept at both ends, even in those days [now it is all on computer tapes]  and since Bell invented this system, I am sure the same was done at AP.. It would be fascinating to find them wouldn't it?
As an aside, nowadays, when I visit certain friends in London, their flat is literally under the shadow of the Telecom Tower !!
David, you & I could bore this board endless with phone stories couldn't we?

David Newell

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2004, 12:17:41 PM »
The GPO Tower, if you please, my Aunt who raised me used to be a supervisor at Monument Exchange right under the tower, I remember it being built. I have had many a meal and afternoon tea up there.

Now AP stuff.
Paper tickets were always used otherwise you could not reverse a call, remember in the days of tickets, the distant operator controlled the call, so the originating operator had a completed ticket and the distant operator would have one too. If it was a complicated connection tickets would be made out all along the trunk. these rules and regs did not change much during the manual and auto-manual era (early 1900-1980's)

Robert_Hall

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2004, 12:42:35 PM »
David, you still call it GPO tower ?  All my friends just call it Telecom now.  I haven't been up there in many years, I think it was closed to visitors because of IRA threats or something.
Yes, the paper tabs, tickets, whatever one calls them were tracked at every exchange.  Eventually someone matched them up I guess.  We sent ours off to some obscure accounting office.
BTW White Plaines is still operating, I understand, but just as a regular call centre. as everyplace is direct dial now. Even those blasted collect calls !! [reverse charge]
It wasn't just for security, it was for billing !! I remember in the early 70's being taught how to place calls to Russia for the White House,  It must have been 5-6 exchanges before a connection. Then one had to sit there for all of them to come down. And ask each one "are you finished?' Never recieving an answer, just a click. Of course, most asked the same of us & we responded likewise. No "rodger, over' talk. The Russian "operators" were almost always male, I suspect military.  So I would suppose my guess that is how it was run at the palace. By military men.

Offline David_Newell

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Re: The Imperial Telephone Exchange
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2004, 12:54:46 PM »
I was told the main international exchange in Russia was in the KGB building, may have been a half hearted joke, do you remember the odd clicking and fizzing on eastern block calls I was told it was the recording equipment coming on. We really should have lunch when you are next in town. Everyone will be getting very bored. I still have my Aurolite headset a la Nasa of the late 1970's.

David