Bell himself was perhaps the first to see the future of the telephone exchange. In a letter written to some English capitalists in 1878, he said: "It is possible to connect every man's house, office or factory with a central station, so as to give him direct communication with his neighbors.
When the first infant exchange for telephone service was born in Boston, in 1877, it was the tiny offspring of a burglar-alarm business operated by E.
The Holmes exchange was on the top floor of a little building, and in almost every other city the first exchange was as near the roof as possible, partly to save rent and partly because most of the wires were strung on roof-tops.
But the others flung the flying shuttles of talk until, in a single exchange fifteen thousand conversations had been made possible in sixty minutes.
No matter how many millions of dollars may be spent upon cables and switchboards, the quality of telephone service depends upon the girl at the exchange end of the wire.
Change followed change to such a degree that the experts of 1880 would be lost to-day in the mazes of a telephone exchange.
"Several days ago I was walking through a telephone exchange and I saw something new.
It was the period of the message rate, the pay station, the farm line, and the private branch exchange.
There were no switchboards of any account, no cables of any value, no wires that were in any sense adequate, no theory of tests or signals, no exchanges, NO TELEPHONE SYSTEM OF ANY SORT WHATEVER.
There were no operators, switchboards, or exchanges. But there had now come a time when more than two persons wanted to be in the same conversational group.
In some exchanges as many as half a dozen operators were necessary to handle a single call; and the clamor and confusion were becoming unbearable.
To describe one of those early telephone exchanges in the silence of a printed page is a wholly impossible thing.
What with whittling the switchboards, swearing at subscribers, playing tricks with the wires, and roaring on all occasions like young bulls of Bashan, the boys in the first exchanges did their full share in adding to the troubles of the business.
If ever the rush of women into the business world was an unmixed blessing, it was when the boys of the telephone exchanges were superseded by girls.