Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [telecom]

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Excerpt from the New York Times:

Dr. James Marsters passed away.  He and two deaf colleagues broke that
barrier for themselves and tens of thousands of other hearing-impaired
people in 1964 when they converted an old, bulky, clacking Teletype
machine into a device that could relay a typewritten conversation
through a telephone line. It was the first example of what became
commonly known as a TTY and is now, in a greatly updated and compact
version, called a text telephone.

When they introduced their device, the partners met strong resistance
from AT&T, which then had virtual control over the nation’s telephone
system and prohibited direct connections to its network.

For full article please see:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/us/23marsters.html?scp=1&sq=deaf&st=cse

On another newsgroupo several people said AT&T didn't offer any
service the deaf community could use so Dr. Marsters developed his
system.

I'm don't think that's correct.  For many years both AT&T and Western
Union offered switched teleprinter services that anyone could get (TWX
and Telex).  AT&T also would rent Teletypes for use on its voice
network for people to call computer time sharing services.

Also, I believe AT&T would rent anyone a modem for connection to
privately owned equipment.  Normally that would be a computer, but
there were other machines, such as process control and telemetry
reporting, that were connected as well.  The modem acted as the
interface to protect the network.   All machines of course were owned
by the user, AT&T did not rent out any computers.  So if someone had
an old refurbished Teletype AT&T would rent them a modem.    (Also,
private line subscribers could use their own modems.)

What I think Dr. Marsters' developed was a _low-cost_ system for deaf
people to use instead of renting a Bell System modem, teleprinter, or
a Western Union Telex connection.  Since AT&T's and WU's services were
intended for busineses, the prices weren't cheap.

***** Moderator's Note *****

TWX and TELEX were, as you point out, too expensive for ordinary
users, but there were other barriers to deaf/hearing-impaired users
having access to the telephone network, and the inventors had to
overcome all of them.

1. TWX and TELEX machines worked on closed networks; nobody without a
   TWX or TELEX machine could communicate with them, so even those few
   Deaf/Hearing-impaired users who could afford to have access
   couldn't depend on being able to reach another
   Deaf/Hearing-impaired user.

2. The only dial-up data services available for connections via the
   PSTN was Tymnet (Telenet wasn't established until 1974): it was
   geared to business users, and it didn't have any capability for
   placing calls to destinations on the PSTN or to manually-controlled
   nodes.
  
3. The modems available for use on ordinary POTS lines were
   "Full-duplex" designs, which wouldn't operate unless they were
   constantly connected with the same type of modem. That meant that
   they wouldn't work with common telephone devices such as answering
   machines, and that they couldn't be used in situations where only
   one person on the call was Deaf or Hearing-impaired, which is a
   very common occurence, especially with "Late deafened" adults who
   have lost their hearing but are still able to speak intelligibly.

Marsters, Weitbrecht, and Saks solved these problems with a
combination of innovation and elbow-grease:

1. They chose to use the older Model 15/19 and Model 28 Teletype
   machines which ham operators were also using. These machines were
   nearing the end of their commercial life, and were relatively
   inexspensive.

2. They designed and built a half-duplex modem which is compatible
   with telephone answering machines: it could be used to record an
   outgoing message which would be printed on a caller's machine, and
   also to leave a message for later printing by the recipient.
  
3. They included automatic Transmit/Receive switching, which allowed
   for calls to be made where one party was using a TDD and the other
   was speaking, as in the case of late-deafened adults.

In a sense, the TDD was a "bridge" device, which made it possible for
Deaf/Hearing-impaired users to make use of the PSTN during the time
that the Internet was developing. Since it's now routine for most
major companies to have a web presence, and for them to offer customer
service and bill payments online, there's less of a need for a device
which will operate on the PSTN, but this is a (surprisingly sharp)
double-edged sword.
  
1. Many Deaf/Hearing-impaired users depend on the TDD as their only
   means of access to government services such as the registry of
   motor vehicles or their local tax assessor, but at the same time
   that these organizations have adapted to the Internet, they have
   tended to step back from TDD services and upkeep.

2. Dependence on Email and web-sites for communications between
   Deaf/Hearing-impaired users has reduced demand for TDD devices and
   training, which has pushed prices up and re-introduced the problem
   of not knowing what system a given user has available.

3. The TDD gave Deaf/Hearing-impaired citizens a small compensation
   for the marginalizatoin they endured in many aspects of their
   lives. Since TDD devices were not designed to communicate with
   computers, government agencies and utilities (which were mandated
   to offerr TDD lines) did, as a result, sometimes give a higher
   standard of customer service to TDD users than to the hearing
   public. TDD users could usually get through to a government agency
   much more quickly than those using voice, and they were also spared
   the dubious benefits of voice-response systems.

Dr. Marsters and his team changed the world for deaf and
hearin-impaired telephone users. I'm sad to see him go.
  
Bill Horne


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


hancock4@bbs.cpcn.com wrote:

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Yes, a "service" existed.  It was *NOT* 'practical' for the deaf community to
use it.  The reason?  The usual one, money.

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*snicker*  Got any idea how much that _cost_, relative to a standard
'voice grade' phone line?  And, of course the Teletypes/modems that AT&T
provided for time-share service  dial-up, did "originate" mode _only_.
you could _not_ directly connect two such machines over the 'voice' network'.
That meant a deaf person _could_not_ call another deaf person directly with
such a device.  The two people had to 'co-ordinate' their calls, so that they
both called 'some other place', that had 'answer' modems, and could shuffle
the bits back and forth between them.

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*NOT* entirely true.  Lots of places had limited dial-in- capability direct
to _their_ mainframes.   Tymenet was unique in that it was a 'national'
front end to anybody who got an X.25 'server' connection from them.  "anyone"
could dial the 'nearby' Tymenet number, and _then_ decide which host system
to connect to.    Beat the h*ll out of having to make a long-distance call to
the city where the particular 'host' was located.  It _also_ got you whatever
bandwidth you could get on that 'nearby' call -- generally =far= better than
one could get going through the voice LD network.

What Tymenet, etc., did was really the 'precursor' of the communications
"revolution".  The only element in the 'variable cost' of a customer "'net"
connection was the amount of data they transmitted/received.  *DISTANCE* was
not a cost item.  The server across the country (or in _another_ country) didn't
cost more to access than the one next door -- as far as the 'communication' cost
went, that is.  What the server operator charged, how much data you passed,
and _how_fast_ you passed it, _did_ all factor into your total bill.

***** Moderator's Note *****

You're right; I should have said "it didn't have the capability for
placing calls to manually-controlled destinations on the PSTN".

Bill Horne


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


On Aug 31, 11:25 pm, bon...@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi)
wrote:

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I guess you missed this paragraph in the original post:

     "What I think Dr. Marsters' developed was a _low-cost_ system for deaf
     people to use instead of renting a Bell System modem, teleprinter, or
     a Western Union Telex connection.  Since AT&T's and WU's services were
     intended for busineses, the prices weren't cheap. "

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Not correct.  The Teletypes AT&T provided for time-sharing access via
PSTN were ASR, automatic send receive.  You [could] call another
teletype, and if [it was] unattended, it would automatically answer,
and you could leave a typed out message.  If it was attended you could
have a conversation.

A deaf person defniitely COULD call other people directly with such
devices, either to leave a message or have a conversation.  There was
the rental on the teletype ($100/month), but the phone call was
regular residential rates.

I believe Telex also offered the option of leaving messages or having
a conversation.  But Telex charged by connect time (not much), and
most users 'batched' their messages via paper tape to minimize connect
time.

Further, you could own your own non-ASR Teletype and modem and call
other Teletypes, but they'd require someone to be there.

We used to do this years ago.  Early form of teen texting.


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


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That's a _neat_ trick, regardless of the capability of the terminal device,
when the modem supplied were "originate only" devices..  Two modems, both
in 'originate' mode, simply cannot talk to each other.

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Telex and TWX were both closed networks.  Had to have your own dedicated
line for that service.  And you couldn't reach anybody who didn't have their
own dedicated line for the same network you used.  

Those networks worked *very* differently from the PSTN.  On Telex and TWX, the
'C.O. equivalent' played the 'host' side of the connection to both sets of
customer gear.

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NOT over the PSTN, prior to the "Carterphone decision", or at least not
_legally_.  If you used your own modem, you had to have a "DAA", which
required _manual_ intervention, both for sending and receiving.

***** Moderator's Note *****

AFAIK, TWX calls were connected directly from the originating to the
terminating machine, without the CO providing anything but a path for
the modem tones. Of course, on calls from 4-row to 3-row machines,
there was an intermediate step, but I'm sure that 4-row to 4-row was a
direct connection. Each 4-row machine could originate _or_ answer
calls, switching modes to use the correct set of modem tones.

Prior to its sale to Western Union, TWX _DID_ use the PSTN. The TWX
offices were simply set up with translations which prevented calls
between 4-row TWX numbers and POTS numbers, but TWX calls _were_
routed via PSTN trunks. ISTR that 3-row was converted from manual to
DDD at some point, and that 3-row numbers could be directly dialed
from POTS numbers, but it's been a while.

Bill Horne


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


On Sep 2, 4:29 pm, bon...@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi) wrote:


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The modems supplied were NOT "orginate only".  Where did you get that
idea?

The modems on teletypes _were_ originate and answer.  As mentioned,
two-way conversations were common.

A major feature of TWX and Telex was the leaving of messages and two-
way conversation.

Now, there were "receive-only" teletypes, such as wire service
printers.  Perhaps the modems associated with them (if they weren't on
a current-loop line) were receive only.

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Telex and TWX could talk to each other; this was established later on.

In the waning days of Telex and early days of services like
Compuserve, you might (not sure) have even been able to send a message
from Compuserve to them.  I know you could send WU Mailgrams; and
Compuserve had other connections.

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No, it merely provided the communications path.  Look up the WUTJ on
this website.

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Or, as commonly done, an acoustical coupler.

Also, use of a DAA required no attention whatsoever; it merely acted
as a filter on the line and was completely transparent to the user.
The "manual intervention", if needed, was merely lifting a lever upon
receipt of the carrier sound.  Often the phones used for dial-up were
the two-line models that had a rotating knob and pull-knob.  When
connecting, the knob was pulled up.  (Such phones were often used for
a variety of special wiring other than the two-line function).

***** Moderator's Note *****

The modems used for Teletypes on press wires were, indeed, one-way: a
perfect example of Simplex transmission which I did not mention
earlier.

TELEX and TWX could talk to each other through gateways, after WU
inherited TWX from Bell.

WU had an Easylink service which offered TELEX interconnection: I used
it to send an international TELEX in 1986. I don't know if it could be
reached via Compuserve.

I think the point the previous poster made about Data Access
Arrangements was that they required manual activation. However, I
can't help but wonder if the Bell companies leased out their remaining
inventory of TWX machines for "TTY" service after WU took over the
"official" TWX network, and if that was so, they would probably have
been capable of auto-answer.

Bill Horne


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


I'll put in this comment, before it gets any deeper.  The Bell modems, 101
and 103 series, were full duplex AFSK using a different pair of tones in
each direction.  Hence a modem had to know if it was originating or
answering to know which pair of tones to use for which purpose; and the
modems were complicated because of having to be able to transmit or receive
using either tone pair.

There were strapping options in the modems to select which tone pair to
use for originate, and which tone of a pair was mark or space.  Hence
by strapping there were eight possible mutually-incompatible services
using the same modems.  One of these was used for TWX, and another for
DataPhone.  Others were to have been used for things like WADS and one
called WADS-prime.  Although TWX mostly used the PSTN it was charged at
a lower rate than voice calls.  Hence TWX machines did not have a handset
so you couldn't talk over the connection.  DataPhone used the PSTN at
the voice rates, so it did include a telephone handset that could be
used for conversation between operators.

With acoustic couplers, or with third-party hardwired modems after
Carterfone, if the intent was to use the machine as a computer terminal
only then the modem could be originate-only, since it never had to
answer incoming calls.  The modem needed to transmit on only one tone
pair and receive on the other.

The original Dial TWX modems, the 101 series, were pretty monstrous,
being about six inches thick and a foot wide and maybe 18 inches long.
The Teletype machines designed for use with these modems had 99 wires
running between the Teletype and the modem.  This was necessary because
most of a telephone set, the dial and speaker or earphone, the control
buttons, etc. were built into the Teletype machine.  When the 103 modems
with built-in telephones came out, some of the Bell operating companies
cut costs by buying much simpler private-line machines from Teletype
and using the 103 modems, with strapping appropriate for TWX or DataPhone
as needed.

***** Moderator's Note *****

I'm puzzled by your post: I'm not saying you're wrong, but I am
confused. I infer that the modems were wired for different tone pairs
when used on TWX vs. DataPhone, and I have not experienced that in my
usage.

When I worked at Back Bay Toll in Boston, we had a 35ASR which was
used for company reporting. It was compatible with TWX machines - I
know this because I once sent a TWX to a real TWX machine by plugging
into the TWX circuit of a WU customer, and it worked fine.

However, the machine was also compatible with the common modems used
for Bulletin Boards, and I know _that_ because I used it to log into
Ward Christensen's CBBS. It was, of course, hard-wired for local echo,
so every character that I typed printed twice, but it _did_ work.

Please provide any URL's or other information about the ways the
modems were wired differently for TWX or DataPhone. TIA.

Bill Horne


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


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On this discussion we also have to include the specific time frame
because equipment changed noticeably over time.  Over pioneer pieces
of equipment gain new functions over time*.

I'm speculating here:  Bill, you mentioned going into a "TWX circuit
of a WU customer" and also using your teletype for BBS access.  This
sounds like it was toward the late 1970s.   Was this after WU acquired
TWX?  Perhaps TWX had changed by that point.  Or, perhaps by that
point the modems were a later generation and more flexible, esp on the
35 which was the heavy duty model.  Or perhaps your machine at the
toll center was more sophisticated than a customer's machine.

When did Hayes come out with the AT command set?  Who invented modems
that could automatically dial and do other functions once done by
hand?  (Like when we set the speaker volume, we turned a knob on it.)

***** Moderator's Note *****

This was about 1973 or 74: WU had taken over TWX, but N.E.T. was still
maintaining the TWX (WADS) office at Franklin Street in Boston (a #5
Xbar), so it was "just after" they sold the TWX network.

Bill Horne


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


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Late 70s.


The 'Bell 801 automatic calling unit' handled that, _external_ to the
modem itself.

Existed more than a decade before Hayes.


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


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It did, but the control of the dialer was separate from the data path.
Hayes' important innovation was to combine the data and control
channel so any old crummy microcomputer with a minimal serial port
could autodial.

R's,
John




Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


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Yup.  And that separation is a 'big win', in terms of security and
access controls. :)

It was also possible to 'share' one 801 across multiple modems on
multiple lines -- where you had multiple 'dial-out' lines, that is.

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Hayes "contribution" was to do it *without* using any of the so-called
'modem control' signals present in a full RS-232 interface.  

With the _big_ cost differential between a minimal 3-wire terminal port,
and a 'full RS-232' port, one could successfully sell a modem that
needed only a 3-wire port for a significantly higher price than a 'full
RS-232' modem sold for, and still *SAVE* the customer money, overall.
(combined cost of modem and the serial port for the computer)

Other people, before Hayes, had used 'in-band' signalling (and still do)
for conveying dialing instructions to the modem.  However they require
manipulation of some of the additional signals in a 'full' RS-232
interface to switch between the mode where commands are sent and one
where all data is passed through 'transparently'.

Hayes' _key_ innovation, and the one for which they got a patent -- the
only patentable feature of their basic system -- was the means of
escaping from "_transparent_ data transmission" back to "command mode".
i.e., the mandatory 'guard time' surrounding the magic character
sequence ('+++', by default).


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


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Actually, at the time there were a bunch of modems (including the
Anchor Signalman II) which used the DTR line to control the hookswitch.
Doing this allowed software on the computer to toggle the DTR line and
pulse-dial the modem.  Then it would wait for the CD line to go high
when the modem finally detected a carrier and locked up.
--scott

--
"C'est un Nagra.  C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


Scott Dorsey wrote:
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 >>
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The "Claim To Fame" for the Hayes modems was, as John Levine pointed
out, that it could be used with only a three wire connection. This may
seem like a solution in search of a problem today, but return with me
now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, prior to the Borg -
        
* There was no agreement on what connectors to use: my Heath H89 had
  both female and male 25 pin connectors for the DTE ports.

* Retailers would sell _anything_ that looked like a computer cable,
  no matter what the connector sex, the wire, or the pinout.

* Operating Systems did _NOT_ have complete control of the serial
  ports. CP/M required drivers that were written by OEM's, or even by
  end-users like me, and everyone was in an incredible hurry to get
  product to market, so "DSR" and "CD" leads were often ignored. Hell,
  it was hard enough to get the speed right, with some control programs
  requiring manual setup for the modem speed since they had no "auto
  detect" capability.

* Software vendors advertised "technical support" very heavily, but
  what they provided was a long list of excuses for doing nothing: if
  the modem lights blinked, they would tell you it was a modem problem
  and refer you back to your modem vendor.

The Hayes modems worked if you could send them data and receive data,
and they succeeded for that reason. It wasn't until the IBM PC took over
the "baseline" position in hardware comparisons that a semblance of
order was introduced, with DTE ports having male connectors and DCE
using female, with machine-to-machine serial connections requiring
null-modem cables, and with each OS properly handling supervisory lines.

As with the Centronics interface for printers, the Hayes command set
became the de facto standard and is used to this day.

Bill Horne
(Filter QRM for direct replies)


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


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Actually, there was a 'default' standard.  Before the micro-processor
rage, most CPE (DTE *and* DCE) had DB-25M(!!) connectors, and cables
were DB-25F <-> DB-25F, and came in precisely two varieties --
'straight through', or 'null-modem' -- with -all- the signals carried.
Modems and directly related devices were wired as DCE, and everything
else was wired as DTE.

Even 'glass' terminals with a capability to 'add on' a hard-copy
device often had the same connectors for both the modem and the
printer.

When the hobby market developed, *then* things got seriously messy.
If a computer was connected to a modem, it needed to look like DTE,
because the modem was DCE.  If it was connected to a terminal (or a
printer, or, ....)  it needed to look like DCE, because that 'other
device' was hard-wired as DTE.

"Some people" started differentiating the DCE/DTE ports on the
computer with different connectors (usually by selection of gender).
With *NO* agreement on gender -- they couldn't have 'agreement' if the
various manufacturers weren't talking to each other, and they weren't.
Heck, you couldn't even count on what *KIND* of a connector (if any!)
was provided -- remember for the home market, a lot of this was 'kit'
stuff, and a kit-builder was expected to supply most of the 'routine'
parts themself.

This kind of 'help' actually _caused_ more problems than it solved.
Now you had to find a cable with the right kind of a 'bastard'
connector on the one end, _and_ the proper wiring to the
(more-or-less) standard connector on the other end.  Did I mention
that multiple manufacturers might use the same kind of 'non-standard'
connector, with _inconsistent_ usage of the pins on that connector?
*SNARL*

At least one vendor "got cute", and used a connector that could be
plugged in two ways.  One way, you got DTE, turn it over and you had
DCE.  This *WAS* 'really handy' a lot of the time, but it was a
maintenance nightmare -- the plug wasn't labelled, and if it got
'unintentionally' unplugged, there was no way to tell _which_ way was
the 'right' way to reconnect.

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Yup.  and it _was_ the "right cable" for some hook-up, somewhere.  Of
course, figuring out "what" it was right for was almost as big a
challenge as figuring out whether a box of _unlabelled_ floppy disks
could be used in your machine.  (assuming you were one of the 'rich
guys' _with_ a floppy drive, that is. :)

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It was even worse than that.  In the early days, lots of "serial
ports" simply did *NOT* have _anything_ for the 'other' lines in the
RS-232 specification.  "Full serial port" chips were *EXPENSIVE*, but
you could handle TxD and Rxd with little more than a couple of
transistors, and (maybe a 'buffer' chip).

*SOMETIMES* some of the other signals were 'faked' by hard-wiring to
+12 or ground, other times the kit instructions suggested simply
jumpering certain pins together, to 'fool' whatever was on the other
end.  But, frequently, all those pins were simply left "N/C".


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


On Sun, 06 Sep 2009 21:02:31 -0400, Robert Bonomi wrote:
.........
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.........
Don't start mentioning "Null-modem" cables or I might start a rant on the
*correct* way to wire one of these versus the wrong way that 95% seemed to
be done......   ;-)

I still recall how badly some companies implemented RS-232 connections,
Nortel were notorious for being clueless on this with the Meridian 1
systems.

--
Regards, David.

David Clayton
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Knowledge is a measure of how many answers you have, intelligence is a
measure of how many questions you have.


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


bonomi@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi) writes:
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And you had computers that didn't set some of the lines right, so you might
use carefully-spliced cables (or a gadget from radio shack with jumpers and
opposite-gender connectors on both ends) to duplicate signals. And null
modem adapters. And gender changers. And then they added 9 pin serial...

I used to have a kit of cables and dongles to cover every possibility so I
could later go back and make a proper cable, and it was NOT a small kit. *
--
* PV    Something like badgers, something like lizards, and something
        like corkscrews.


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


PV wrote:
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I once let the magic smoke out of a $1000 printer because it never
occurred to me that a product designer would have wired a power source
into a RS232 connector.  The printer wasn't working, then I noticed a
wisp of smoke literally coming out of it.  I think the offending
instrument was a Morrow MD-2 computer, which had two female DB25
outputs connectors, one DCE and the other DTE (a terminal connected to
one, and your choice of modem, printer, or A-B switch connected to the
other).

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Gosh, I haven't used my "christmas tree" or little jumper box in
years.  I don't miss it at all.

Dave


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


Dave Garland wrote:
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That reminded me of the time I plugged a modem - I can't for the life of me
recall the name, though I recall that it was selling like mad at the time
because it was really cheap - into an Amiga.  As it happens, the Amiga used
a couple of 'reserved' pins for power (+ and - 12V, according to a pinout I
found via Google), and the modem manufacturer used them for something
entirely incompatible.  I do not recall whether the Amiga was damaged or the
modem was converted into the doorstop it so strongly resembled.

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What I hated was crimping all the pins for custom connectors.

--
Geoffrey Welsh


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


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All these posts about poor equipment manufacturing do seem to
demonstrate why the old Bell System--and regulators--were so hesitant
to allow customer owned equipment to be connected to the network.
What good were 'standards' if they weren't followed?

***** Moderator's Note *****

"Standards" has many meanings: if used to exclude competitors from any
meaningful opportunity, then standards are conterproductive. If used
to assure a level playing field, vice versa.

Bill Horne


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


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It is not rocket science to build a device that properly meets
telephone communication specifications and also is built well enough
to ensure no power or other improper currents or signals get into the
phone line, and the device does not unnecessarily go off-hook or
otherwise misue the network.  From the descriptions various posters
have made about the devices, an awful lot seemed to be done really
cheap, quick, and dirty.

I respectfully wish to offer some comments about monopolies, excluding
competitors, and a level playing field.

First, as to public policy and monopolies:

Yes, the Bell System and Independents were assigned a deliberate
monopoly which deliberately excluded competitors.  But in return for
that privilege, they had many restrictions on their business.  They
certainly could not charge rates to maximize profit, but rather had to
charge low rates to maximize a customer base.  It certainly would've
been far more profitable for Bell to charge a higher minimum monthly
rate and not have to be bothered providing unprofitable full service
to very marginal subscribers.

Further, the Bell System was severely restricted from going into other
lines of business.  The Bell System with Western Electric and Bell
Labs could've been a powerful player in industrial electronics and
computers.  Bell was mandated to license all Bell Labs discoveries at
modest cost, not reap the profits from it.  (Today, pharmaceutical
companies make big profits from their research.)

Bell never made the kind of profits that a typical technology company
of its times would make.  American industry was in a long boom between
1950 and 1970, but the Bell System , despite its power technologies,
was not part of it by deliberate design.

So, yes, Bell was almost guaranteed to make a profit, but--at the same
time--it was likewise guaranteed never to make huge profits.

Let's look at it another way:  Suppose you own a restaurant and the
government requires you to meet very stringent--and costly--food
safety and public service standards.  You are mandated to feed the
homeless and be open with a full menu 24/7 , for example.  Then the
government, to provide a so-called "level playing field", excuses
newcomer restaurants from meeting those same safety and public service
standards; they don't have to be as clean, feed the homeless, or be
open 24/7.  Is that truly a "level playing field"?  Is that truly in
the public interest?

We must remember that after MCI gained a foothold Bell sought revised
_lower_ rates to meet competition; rates that were based on
competitive cost, not widespread averaging.  Bell's applicaton was
denied.  Is that a level playing field?

Secondly, as to technology:

If your neighbor buys a modem or builds his own that fails to have
proper safety precautions or uses crappy or wrongly installed parts,
your neighbor could introduce power or interference current over a
phone line and disrupt your service or even create a safety hazard,
despite the system safeguards.  Such "competitors" should be
excluded.  In reality a lot of crap was sent over Bell lines and it
bore the cost of the cleanup.  (A disrupted customer would call 611
and Bell would send a man and truck out to check it out but find
nothing, because the offending customer would quickly disconnect the
errant device.)

Let's look at another example:

In the 1960s, IBM revised its policies and allowed third party vendors
to build peripherals (tape and disk drives) for connection to IBM's
System/360-370 mainframe computers.  A big business sprang up and
vendors were able to undercut IBM's prices.  Helping the vendors was
IBM's Consent Decree, similar to Bell's, where it was required to
license out its research results for a nominal fee.  Also helping were
former IBMers using their experience at a new company.

But when IBM, thanks to its research, wanted to upgrade (change the
standards) its peripherals or lower prices--a better deal for
customers--the changes would instantly obsolete the 3rd party vendors'
offerings and financially hurt them.  The 3rd party vendors cried
foul, calling it unfair competition.  I believe the court found IBM's
actions to be exactly what competition was supposed to do:  IBM's
improvements benefited its customers and it was up to the competitors
to go along.


Re: Dr. James Marsters, TTY deaf service developer [Telecom]


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Bill, was the standard in question published anywhere that might have made
it an industry standard, or was it simply patented?

***** Moderator's Note *****

I was speaking metaphorically. The original post drew an analogy
between the early microcomputer maker's failure to comply with the
RS-232-C standard, and how the old Bell System and its regulators were
reluctant to allow interconnection of customer-provided-equipment to
the PSTN.

I felt the need to point out that standards can be used to exclude
competitors as well as to encourage competition: for example, the
first response of Ma Bell to the Carterphone decision was to offer
interconnection only through protective interfaces which cost as much
to rent as the phones they replaced.

Bill Horne


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