College - home communications today article [telecom]

An article in the Phila Inqr describes how college students today keep in touch with their families at home.


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How times have changed. Back when I was in college, it was considered a nice new innovation for a student to get a telephone in his room-- most dorms made do with a few pay phones in the hall and maybe a house phone. Indeed, the Bell System history "Telephone" by John Brooks describes the cutover work necessary in spring and fall to serve dorms.

Dorm landline phones were often part of the college centrex which meant students had to dial 9 to call out and could directly dial other college extensions internally. Students were charged the residential rate.

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Lisa or Jeff
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I remember being loaned to the service office with GTE in West LA in July one year and having to go over thousands of service orders for UCLA dorms, I hated paperwork and having to deal with a building full of woman who did not want us there

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Exactly. We could dial other dorm rooms by dialing "6" plus the

4-digit extension. Other campus numbers were reached in a similar fashion with a "4". Right about the time I left they created a special on-campus number: 6-0911 to reach the campus police. Previously it was necessary to dial their not-so-easy-to-remember 4-xxxx number. The running joke was to tell freshmen you could be reached by dialing 9911 to see if they'd fall for it.

We were expected to get our own long-distance. I did that the first year and I remember the paperwork being a hassle. It involved the campus, Southern Bell (as they were then known), and the long-distance provider. I eventually went with a non-subscriber AT&T calling card because it was more portable. Changing dorm rooms meant moving the service and also risking service still being connected for the next person to use at my expense. The local dial tone was included in our housing fees.

Throughout campus were call boxes that supposedly were for on-campus calls only. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out dialing "9" got an outside line. I demonstrated for someone how I could use my calling card to place long distance calls on the call boxes, which just blew his mind.

We had a campus ham radio station with a phone patch. I called my then girlfriend from the library using a 2-meter handheld. The idea I could make a phone call without needing a pay phone was very strange.

Some of the dorms still had the intercoms in place. They were disabled, but given we were a campus full of engineers they got used from time to time. They allowed people outside the dorm building to call into someone's room. Even then we had blank spots along the wall where the pay phones had been removed after phone lines were run into every dorm room.

Five or six years ago my wife was in grad school. It was strange walking across a packed campus seeing nearly everyone on a cell phone. I don't think I saw two people walking side-by-side talking. My step-daughter is now in college. She has a phone jack, but doesn't own a land line phone and heck if we know what the number is. I really wonder what the usage is any more. I'm sure the campus administration still uses the PBX and it's probably more trouble than it's worth to remove the phone lines from the dorms.

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