1952 - Operator Toll Dialing

Bell System Operators in 1952 using Operator Toll DialingIn 1952, Long Distance Service was improved with the introduction of "Operator Toll Dialing". This was made possible by the installation of a new toll switching machine in the 51 Ivy building. Now, to connect long distance calls, the 51 Ivy operator simply plugged in to a trunk going into the new machine and keyed the 3 digit area code and local number.
At this point, local numbers consisted of an office name, followed by 4 or 5 digits. Some cities used the first two letters of the office name plus 5 numerals (2L-5N), some used 3 letters of the office name plus 4 numerals (3L-4N), and others, like Atlanta, used 2L-4N. In some cases, it was a challenge to figure out the spelling of an office name in order to key the two or three letter code.

Keypulsing pad used by operators.Atlanta long distance operators used a keypad on the switchboard to place calls. This was referred to as "Keypulsing". The number keys were arranged in two rows with additional keys labeled KP and ST. To place a call to Pennsylvania 6-5000 in New York, the operator would plug a cord into a 4A trunk and key
KP 212 PE6 5000 ST


The 4A Crossbar Toll Switching System

The toll switching machine installed in 1952 was known as the Number 4A Crossbar Switching System. This machine was one of many such machines installed throughout North America for toll switching. The first machine of this type had been installed in Philadelphia in 1943. The one installed in Atlanta was a more advanced version. Its original designation was A4A, which stood for "Anticipated No. 4 Advanced". Following the installation of a device called the Card Translator, the machine and others like it, were redesignated 4A.
Aisle of equipment in a Crossbar Office.Crossbar was a type of switching technology that was developed in the 1930s. A number of switching systems were based on this type of switch. The 4A was unique in that it was designed exclusively for switching long distance calls. Card Translators were developed as a way to store the huge number of route translations that were required. The machine also had the ability to try multiple alternate routes if the primary route to a destination city was busy.
The Atlanta 4A machine was connected by trunks with many other 4A machines in other cities and by trunks to most of the local central offices in the state. Calls to Georgia from throughout North America were now routed to the Atlanta 4A and from there to the destination office. In addition to the Atlanta operators, operators in other Georgia cities were able to put calls through the machine.

Operators in Americus, Augusta, Buford, West Point, Columbus, Griffin, LaGrange, McDonough, Milledgeville, Rome, and Savannah were now able to take advantage of Operator Toll Dialing, using the Alanta 4A machine. But most of these operators were not fortunate enough to have Keypulsing like the Atlanta operators and had to dial all calls using a rotary dial.

Multi-Frequency Signaling

The 4A machine brought with it another development, the Multi-Frequency signaling system. This signaling system used tones to pass numbers from one machine to another. While these tones were not the same as Touch Tone, the idea was basically the same.
Prior to the introduction of multi-frequency signaling, machine-to-machine signaling was in the form of dial pulses with Step-by-Step equipment or Revertive Pulse for Panel equipment. Multi-frequency was much faster, allowing calls to be completed more quickly.
 Multi-Frequency Pulsing
Once the nationwide network of 4A machines was in place, multi-frequency signaling was the standard signaling method used for calls across the network. The caller would rarely hear the tones. The equipment usually muted the circuit while the tones were being sent. But you could occasionally hear them.

Microwave Tower

The Microwave Radio System

Long distance calling was also expanded and improved considerably by the addition of thousands of new circuits. The new circuits were carried by microwave radio signals. Many new towers were built all over North America. Each tower had a group of large horn shaped antennas. Signals generated in the toll center were transmitted by the microwave antennas to other toll centers. Repeater stations were placed between toll centers to amplify the signal. Their towers began to be noticable along major highways.
Additional circuits made it possible to put most long distance calls straight through instead of requiring delayed handling and callbacks.

Special Services for Operators

Much of North America could now be reached directly by an operator. For most frequently called places and major cities, the originating toll operator had a flip chart with the area code and other routing information. For other places, the operator used the services of a Rate and Route operator who had more detailed information. For places that were still manual and not reachable direct, the originating operator still had to go through an Inward operator in the destination city.
For these and other services, special operator routing codes called TTC (Terminating Toll Center) codes were used. To reach another operator or service, the operator used a regular 4A trunk and keyed the appropriate codes.
A TTC code was assigned to each toll center where operators or facilities were located. These were 3 digit codes, usually starting with "0". The Athens Toll Office, for example, was "043". Within a toll center, 3-digit codes starting with "1" were used to select a specific type of operator or service. For example, "121" was used to reach an Inward operator.

The area code could be omitted if not needed and the TTC code was not used when calling the primary toll center for a particular area code. The primary toll center was usually the largest city in the area code. Atlanta was the primary for "404", for example.


Pay Phones

Bell System Three Slot Pay Telephone Model 233 or Similar - Common in the 1950s and 1960s in AtlantaOn April 2 1952, the charge for placing a local call from a pay phone was changed from a nickel to a dime for a local call.
When using a pay phone in the 50s and 60s, you had to deposit 10 cents before you could obtain a dial tone. This meant you couldn't place a free call or even an emergency call without depositing money. Since the phone appeared to be completely dead until you deposit a dime, it could be out of order and you would not know until you tried it and lost your money. This type of pay phone service was called "pre-pay" and was common in most cities.
Outside of Atlanta, in smaller towns, another type of pay phone service called "post pay" was common. With this arrangement, you did get a dial tone and dialed your number before depositing any money. You waited until the called party answered and then quickly deposited your dime.
When placing a long distance call from a pay phone, you called the operator and gave her the information. Using the pre-pay service, the operator asked you for the initial deposit amount before connecting you. If your call was not completed, your deposit would be returned. Using post-pay service in smaller towns, the operator told you the amount of the initial deposit but instructed you to wait until the called party answered before depositing anything. The operator had no way to return your money on a post-pay phone.

The Strike of 1954

On September 29, 1954, telephone workers walked off the job in what turned out to be one of the worst strikes of the century. It lasted almost 8 months.
While most strikers picketed peacefully, there were stories from all over the Southeast about strikers vandalizing Telephone Company facilities. Main cables were cut and sometimes shot at. In Greenville, Tennessee, a bomb destroyed an entire central office building. The mayor of Atlanta even went so far as to issue a "Shoot to Kill" order to the police. After the strike ended on May 21, 1955, several people were brought to trial.


1955 - Conversion to 7-Digit Dialing

Prior to 1955, you dialed 6 digits to reach all Atlanta numbers. Starting in 1955, in order to make long distance direct dialing possible, telephone numbers had to be converted to the 2L-5N system. This system used two letters, representing the office name, plus 5 digits.
Instead of just adding a digit to the existing office names, as you might have expected, The Company decided to give all of the offices new names. In central office buildings that had multiple office names, a single name was assigned and the multiple offices were differentiated by a number. For example, prior to the change the Decatur offices were Dearborn, Crescent, and Evergreen. After the change, there was only one office called "Drake" with 3 codes, Dearborn being replaced with "Drake 3", Crescent with "Drake 7", and Evergreen with "Drake 8". This was extremely confusing change for people. Especially since the change took place over a two year period in three parts.

The first cutover occurred on August 21, 1955, affecting part of the downtown area, the West and East Point offices.
On the same day, the new Melrose central office was placed into service. The new office was located at
Toco Hills on the northeast side.

A portion of the areas served by the Midtown office, Buckhead office, and Decatur office were cut over to Melrose. The first Melrose codes were Melrose-4 and Melrose-6. Melrose was the city's last step-by-step office to be installed.

The second cutover occurred on May 20th, 1956, affecting more of the downtown offices, the Crescent avenue offices in midtown, and the Lakewood office, Dixie.
It is interesting to note that the name Jackson was reused. It had belonged to one of the downtown offices from 1931 to 1946.

Southern Bell used this opportunity to replace the original Panel Switching machine that was installed in 1923. The machine had served the city well for over 32 years. The single Panel machine, serving the Walnut office was replaced by two No. 5 Crossbar machines. This was necessary because the traffic handling capacity of the Panel machine was greater than that of the No. 5 Crossbar. So during the number conversion, Walnut was split between two new office codes. The first 2500 numbers went to Jackson-1 and the remaining 7500 numbers went to Jackson-2.

The final cutover was done on November 18, 1956. Coinciding with the final cutover, another new central office, Butler was placed into service on the south side of Decatur on Columbia Drive. Several thousand customers served out of the Decatur's East Lake Drive offices (Dearborn, Crescent, and Evergreen) offices were cut over to the new office and given Butler-9 numbers.

During the 9 months between the first cutover and the last cutover, Atlanta telephone numbers were a mixture of 6 digit and 7 digits. Here are some telephone numbers before and after the big numbering change:
Rich's Department Store ..... Walnut 4636 became Jackson 2-4636
Grady Hospital Ambulance..... Cypress 4711 became Jackson 4-4711

The No. 5 Crossbar Switching System

Number 5 Crossbar Switching SystemThe No. 5 Crossbar System, which first entered service in 1948 in Media, Pennsylvania, used much of the same technology that was used in the 4A Crossbar toll machine. The machine was designed specifically to be used in suburban central offices. But it turned out to be such a flexible and successful design that it became Bell's all purpose central office machine. The No. 5 Crossbar machine had many advances in call handling capability, including the ability to select alternate routes when the primary route to a given destination was unavailable. The machine also took up less floor space than a comparable Panel or Step-by-Step machine.
Three new No. 5 Crossbar machines were placed into service in Atlanta on November 18, 1956, during part of the great renumbering. Two of the new machines were located in the newly expanded 51 Ivy building downtown. These were given the codes Jackson-1 and Jackson-2. The third machine was placed in a new office called Butler on Columbia Drive in Decatur, with the initial code Butler-9.
The only drawback to the No. 5 Crossbar was its fixed switching matrix, which placed a limit on traffic handling capacity. In the Panel and Step-by-Step systems, any amount of traffic could be handled by adding more switching equipment. As a result of this limitation, a single No. 5 Crossbar machine could not be used to replace the Panel machine serving the Walnut office and two separate machines had to be used.

Outer Offices Get Names Too

To complete the 7-digit dialing plan for the metro area, Chamblee, Clarkston, and Smyrna were all given office names. Now they could be dialed without any special EAS access code. Prior to this the code "4" was required when calling those exchanges. The names chosen for the offices kept the initial "4" and the actual routing from the Atlanta offices did not change.

Calls placed from these offices back into Atlanta still required the single digit prefix. Clarkston and Chamblee customers dialed "8" first. Smyrna customers dialed "3" to call Atlanta. It is interesting to note that the name Hemlock was reused for Smyrna after it had been the name of the office on Crescent Avenue in Atlanta from 1915 to 1952.

 Office NameDialing Sequence
from Atlanta
Dialing Sequence
To Atlanta


By 1957, the newly completed number changes were still causing a lot of confusion. For example, many people didn't know how to spell Sycamore and dialed "SI" or "CI".
Two more No. 5 Crossbar offices were installed in 1957 and 1958. The new Sandy Springs central office, with the code "Blackburn-5" was opened in 1957. A large number of customers on the north side of Buckhead were changed to this office. Then in 1958, the Ben Hill office on the southwest side of town was opened with the code "Diamond-4".

1960 - Expanded Local Calling

In 1960 Extended Area service was expanded. Southern Bell called this "The Metropolitan Service Plan". 11 more offices in outlying areas were added to the local calling area. Another name for this service is "Extended Area Service" (EAS). The map shows the toll-free calling area. Solid lines represent free calls as of October 2, 1960. The dotted lines represent additional free calling added April 2, 1961.
1960 Extended Area Service Map

No special access codes were required when calling from Atlanta numbers to the extended area. This was possible because Southern Bell had assigned telephone numbers so that extended area offices had numbers beginning with "4" or "9". Atlanta numbers began with digits other than "4" and "9". When dialing from an Atlanta Step-by-Step office to the extended area, your call was switched to a tandem office when you dialed the first digit. The tandem office then switched the call to the destination office.
Dialing from the outer communities back into Atlanta was not quite as easy. It was impractical to provide direct trunks from every office to every other office. So calls from the outer offices into Atlanta had to be routed through a tandem office. And since most of these communities had Step-by-Step equipment, a special one-digit access code was required to reach the Atlanta tandem.
In most places, the access code "8" was required to reach the Atlanta Tandem. Direct trunks were provided to neighboring offices only. For example, if you were in Clarkston, you could call Clarkston numbers, Stone Mountain numbers, and Chamblee numbers by just dialing the telephone number. But to call Atlanta or any other town in the local calling area you had to dial "8" first, followed by the number. In each office, the Atlanta access code might be different and the list of offices that you could call without the access code varied. So you had to check the telephone directory before dialing from an unfamiliar office.
Offices served by Crossbar equipment did not require access codes and could call any number by dialing only 7 digits. At this time, Roswell, Austell, Jonesboro, and Conyers were Crossbar offices. The rest had Step-by-Step equipment.
Some of the offices that became local to Atlanta were quite a distance from the city. This resulted in heavy use of carrier equipment. Carrier equipment allows multiple conversations to be carried over a single cable pair. Some of these trunks were rather noisy. In addition, trunk circuits over carrier facilities used a special type of supervisory signal known as "SF" (Single Frequency). This system placed a high-pitched tone on the line to indicate that the distant end had not yet answered. When the called party answered, the tone went away. But this added to the general noise of the trunks.
 Dialing "8" from Stone Mountain to call Buckhead. Notice noisy trunk. (510KB file)

1960 - Direct Distance Dialing

The second major change in 1960 was the introduction of Direct Distance Dialing (DDD), enabling customer to dial long distance calls for the first time. Prior to this, all long distance calls from Atlanta had to be placed through the operator.
Prior to the introduction of DDD in Atlanta, the service had been available in many large cities for a number of years. AT&T had assigned Area Codes as early as 1947 when Operator Toll Dialing began. The first trial of customer direct dialing was carried out in 1951 in Englewood, New Jersey. Customers there could dial direct to most major cities. Atlanta was not one of the cities that could be dialed direct during the trial.
Atlanta Telephone Directory Advertisement for Direct Distance Dialing - 1960
With the introduction of DDD, the code "110" was eliminated for reaching a Long Distance Operator and the single digit code "1" was assigned for DDD. The telephone directory explained that you should dial carefully. But if you reached a wrong number, were disconnected or could not get through, you could call your operator and received credit.
There was a demonstration telephone number printed in the directory that you could call to "try out" direct dialing. The number terminated in a recorded message that was more or less a commercial for Long Distance.
 "Dial Direct and Save" Recording

In addition to dialing calls direct, you could still place long distance calls through the operator by dialing "0". At this point, all calls from pay phones and hotel phones still had to be placed through the operator. Direct dialing of those calls came much later. Special billing services, such as person-to-person or collect also required the operator.
To encourage customers to dial station-to-station calls direct, there was a special discount applied. You would not receive this discount if you placed your call through the operator unless you explained that you had tried to dial direct and had difficulty.

The Crossbar Tandem and CAMA

To make DDD possible, another type of crossbar switching machine was placed in service 1960 in the 51 Ivy building. This was called the Crossbar Tandem. A tandem office does not directly serve customer lines. It provides trunk-to-trunk switching enabling central offices to reach other offices without having to have direct trunks. A tandem can be used to handle local calls, toll calls, or a combination of both. When the crossbar tandem is switching toll calls, it is performing the same function as the 4A machine introduced earlier.
The crossbar tandem also sometimes provides other services, such as converting pulsing from one type of office to pulsing that is compatible with another. The one installed at 51 Ivy was specifically placed into service to provide CAMA (Centralized Automatic Message Accounting).
AMA (Automatic Message Accounting) refers to the function of automatically capturing and recording the billing information associated with long distance calls. CAMA was one of the methods used for AMA. When customers placed direct dialed calls from most Atlanta area offices, the initial "1" connected them to the crossbar tandem and its CAMA equipment. After the rest of the number was dialed, a CAMA Operator came on the line and asked for the customer's number. The CAMA equipment then timed and recorded the billing information on paper tape. The tandem then routed the call to an outgoing trunk, usually to the Atlanta 4A machine.

Your number, please?

Step-by-Step offices in Atlanta always used CAMA for direct dialed "1+" calls. No. 5 Crossbar offices, however, usually had their own AMA equipment, known as LAMA (Local Automatic Message Accounting) and could complete direct dialed calls without the services of CAMA. This was nicer for the customer since the caller's number was recorded automatically and he didn't have the added delay of waiting for the CAMA Operator and giving her his number.
Smaller No. 5 Crossbar offices could also be equipped without LAMA and use CAMA for DDD calls. When this was the case, the crossbar equipment was still able to identify the calling party's number and send it to the CAMA equipment, eliminating the need for the CAMA Operator. This was called ANI (Automatic Number Identification).
It was theoretically possible to avoid paying for a call by giving the CAMA Operator a wrong number. But there were methods used to prevent this. To investigate billing errors and possible cases of fraud, the telephone company set up the Toll Investigation Department.

The Rockdale Regional Toll Center

To handle the increasing traffic of long distance calls, AT&T introduced a structure for toll switching centers in The United States and Canada. The new structure was based on a 6 level hierarchy of switching centers. At the top of the hierarchy was the Regional Center of which there were only 7 in North America. One of these 7 regions centers was known as "Rockdale" and was located in Rockdale County, in Conyers. This switching center, which opened in June of 1960, was based on the 4A switching machine, making it the second such machine to be installed in Georgia.

Long Distance Billing

Operators during this period still used cord switchboards that were basically unchanged since 1929 except for the addition of the Keypulsing keypads added in 1952. Billing was recorded on paper toll tickets and timed through the use of the Calculograph. The calculograph was a timeclock type device that stamped the call start and end times on the back of the toll ticket.
One change that occurred to toll ticketing in the 1960s was the use of automatic optical readers in the accounting office. These readers read darkened circles on the toll tickets that operators filled in. These were similar to the voting ballots and multiple-choice tests used in schools.
Before the "Calling Card" was the "Telephone Credit Card". Before that, "Third Number Billing" was used. To use Third Number Billing, you placed the call through the operator and asked to charge the call to your home or business phone. The operator would sometimes verify the listing of the number you gave to make sure it was listed in your name.
The first telephone credit cards were introduced in the mid 1960s. The card numbers consisted of your 7 digit telephone number, your 3 digit billing zone, and a single letter. The billing zone was used instead of the area code. The billing zone for Atlanta was "035". So if your telephone number was 780-2485, your card number might be "780 2458 035 A". The letter at the end was the only part that you could not deduce from someone's telephone number. The operator could validate the card number by a computation that verified that the letter was correct for the number given. If your card was lost or stolen, your telephone number would have probably had to be changed to change your card number.
The availability of the telephone credit card did not eliminate the use of Third Number billing but it did reduce its use. The early card numbering system was later replaced with the system in use today consisting of the 10 digit telephone number plus 4 digit PIN number.

"Zenith" and "WX" Toll Free Calling

In 1960, there was no 800 toll free service. Business that wanted their customers to be able to reach them free of charge made use of other options. The first of these was known as Zenith. A company would register for the Zenith service and receive a 4 or 5 digit number. They could then advertise the Zenith number in the telephone directory in other cities. Callers could reach them by calling the operator and asking for the Zenith number. The operator would look up the business's real telephone number in a list, write up a toll ticket as a collect call, and put the call through. Another service used "WX" numbers in the same way as Zenith numbers. This service continued until after 800 Service was well established in the late 1960s.
Another common service arrangement at this time was Foreign Exchange (FX) service. Airlines used this to make it easy for their customers to call their central reservations office. Each airline had a long list of local telephone numbers in various cities. To reach the airline, the customer would dial the local number for their city. A long list of city telephone numbers were printed on ticket envelopes. That number would be terminated in the airline's central reservations office. For example, a customer in Savannah might dial a local number there. But the call would actually ring the Atlanta reservations office. To do this, the airline had to lease one or more circuits to each of these cities. As a part of this setup, the airlines had a voice announcement device associated with their Automatic Call Distributor (ACD). This device would verbally announce the name of the caller's city when the reservations agent answered.
Foreign Exchange Service was also used by businesses that wanted unlimited local calling to another city without incurring long distance charges. A business in Athens, for example, could have an Atlanta line so that they could make calls to Atlanta for a flat rate. This was still expensive, however.

1960 - Other Changes


Panel Switching is Retired

The city's only remaining Panel switching machine was removed from service in 1960. This machine had been placed into service in the Auburn Avenue building in 1928 to serve the Main office. In 1955, Main was changed to Murray-8. Now, in 1960, a new Number 5 Crossbar machine in the 51 Ivy Building took over the Murray-8 Office and the panel machine was retired.

All Number Calling

1960 was the start of conversion to "All Number Calling" (ANC). The telephone company stopped giving names to new offices and referred to them by numbers only. Eventually the names were dropped for the offices that previously had names. In the 1960 telephone directory, new subscribers added in the past year showed all numbers. Customers that had had service prior to 1960 were listed with the office name abbreviated to two letters, followed by 5 digits. This practice continued until 1963 when the directory listed numbers only.

New Offices

Two new offices were opened this year. The Woodland office was opened on Woodland Avenue serving a northwest section of town using the "355" code. The same year, the Forest Park Office was opened as "366".

Further Expansion of Metro Calling

In April of 1961, four more communities were added to the metro calling area. Alpharetta, Conyers, Palmetto, and Powder Springs could now be called.
In 1962, a new central office was opened in Tucker. The Tucker office took over a portion of the area previously covered by the Clarkston, Chamblee, and Norcross offices and immediately became part of the Atlanta local calling area. The first code there was "938". Southern Bell conducted an open house, inviting the community to take a look at the new No. 5 Crossbar equipment.
Next, in 1963, Acworth and Woodstock to the Northwest and Hampton, McDonough, and Locust Grove to the Southeast were added to the metro calling area. Then in 1964, Dallas to the Northwest, and Lawrenceville and Buford to the Northeast were added. This created the largest toll-free dialing area in the world.
Dialing instructions for some of the outer Step-by-Step offices became rather complicated. For example, these instructions were printed in the Marietta telephone directory in 1964.
To call Marietta 422, 424, 427, and 428 numbers,
Smyrna 435, and 436 numbers, Dallas 445 numbers,
Woodstock 926 numbers, Austell 948 numbers,
Douglasville 942 numbers, Powder Springs 943 numbers,
and Ackworth 974 numbers, dial the 7 digit number.
To call all other Metro Atlanta calls, dial "6" plus the 7 digit number.

Information and Repair Service

In 1964, the access codes were 113 for Information (Directory Assistance) and 114 for Repair Service. Since Marietta had its own Information operators, it was necessary to dial 42-113 for Marietta listings as well as Powder Springs, Acworth, Austell, Dallas, Douglasville, Smyrna, and Woodstock.
The Trimline® was also introduced this year.

Decatur Crossbar Tandem

In 1964, the Decatur Crossbar Tandem was opened. This machine was the same type as the one installed in 1960 downtown. But this one was placed into service to handle the increasingly complex traffic of local calls in the large Atlanta extended calling area.
When calling from the outer suburban Step-by-Step offices to other metro numbers, you dialed an access code (usually "8") first. These calls had to be handled by a tandem machine of some type. The crossbar tandem was ideally suited for this job. In addition to switching the calls to the appropriate office, it was able to provide code restriction.
Code restriction was used to prevent customers from dialing calls incorrectly by using an "8" when it wasn't needed. Doing so tied up trunks to the tandem unnecessarily. For example, if you were in Lithonia and needed to call Conyers, your instructions were to dial only the 7-digit number. This was because the Lithonia office had direct trunks to Conyers. If you needed to call Tucker, however, you had to dial "8" plus the number. Since Lithonia had no direct trunks to Tucker, dialing "8" connected you to the Decatur Crossbar Tandem. The tandem then connected your call to Tucker. Since most area offices required "8", you might have forgotten that you didn't need to use it to call Conyers. If you dialed a Conyers call with an "8" first, it would have gone through without any problem except that it would have tied up a more expensive trunk to Decatur and another more expensive trunk from Decatur to Conyers. So to prevent you from making this mistake, the Decatur Crossbar Tandem was set up to refuse the call. It had the necessary information wired into it to know that it was not permitted to route calls coming in from the Lithonia office to the Conyers office.
Prior to the installation of this machine, calls from most intown offices to the outer suburbs went through the Step-by-Step tandem in the Auburn Avenue building.

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