Demise of Western Union [Telecom]

Does anyone know of an article that explains why [old] Western Union went down like the Titanic?

Reply to
Jim Haynes
Loading thread data ...

No, and I've searched for such articles.

The only published resource I can suggest is the book "The Story of Telecommunications" by Oslin. Oslin was a long time public relations official of WU and wrote a book about the company. The book is somewhat pro-WU and anti-AT&T.

It is not an easy question. Way back in the 1950s WU recognized that the plain telegram was obsolete and had no future, and the future was in bulk business communciations. WU sought and obtained major contracts for data transmision of government and private sector organizations, including the use of sophisticated switching computers (supplied by others, like Univac).

Based on overall readings and discussions in this newsgroup (I think you've contributed quite a bit), I would suggest:

1) Long history of adverse FCC rulings, such as forcing WU to absorb Postal Telegraph and deny it proper share of overseas revenues.

2) Allowing AT&T to be in the telegraph business, such as with TWX. WU eventually got it, but it was too late.

3) Overly aggressive unions that pushed up wages beyond what was affordable for the company.

4) MCI forcing AT&T to cease its special discounted rates to WU. Because WU and AT&T were once united, they retained a special relationship for decades. (One could charge telegrams to their home phone, for instance, and AT&T gave WU discounts on private line services.) When MCI came along and found out about this, they demanded the same treatment for their interconnection to the Bell System. Rather than discount to MCI, the Bell System raised WU's rates. I think that was wrong; MCI wanted to be a direct competitor to AT&T while WU was not*.

5) Lack of ownership/access to the "last mile" between the telegraph CO and a business customer. Connecting a business was expensive since they relied on Bell System loops.

6) Long history of mostly poor WU mgmt.

7) Technologically obsolete. Despite WU's efforts to get into microwave and other broadband in the 1950s, the bulk of its network remained classic 5-bit 50 baud Teletype. For business data transmissions, AT&T offered more expensive but much faster voice lines.

8) Financial mishigosh in its last years.

9) I'm only speculating here, but I suspect WU didn't have the best sales approach, as compared to IBM and AT&T. My very limited exposure to WU facilities of the 1970s was that they seemed rather unpleasant and out of date, almost a throwback**. That is not very attractive to business people seeking a modern high speed data switching and transmission carrier.

  • MCI wanted the benefits of "regulation" when it suited them, such as forcing the Bell System to serve them, and the benefits of "free market" when it suited them, such as serving only high profit corridors "cream skimming", and leaving low profit or loss corridors to AT&T. AT&T was ordered to charge uniform rates nationwide, averaging high cost and low cost areas together. So AT&T would have to maintain very high cost lines in the mountains, MCI didn't have that burden.

** A visit to a US Steel office gave a similar impression, and they found themselves in similar straits.

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

If I had to pick a single reason for WU's demise, it would be that Western Union considered itself a "service" company which took in pieces of paper at one locatoin and delivered pieces of paper at another, with everything in between being a "closed system".

AT&T agressively promoted fax transmission as a competitor to WU: it allowed WU's customers to copy pieces of paper from place to place without paying a middleman. The rest is history.

Bill Horne Temporary Moderator

Please put [Telecom] at the end of your subject line, or I may never see your post! Thanks!

We have a new address for email submissions: telecomdigestmoderator atsign This is only for those who submit posts via email: if you use a newsreader or a web interface to contribute to the digest, you don't need to change anything.

Reply to

I guess by now there is more mileage to be gained in writing about why the dot com companies went down the drain, and W.U. is ancient history.

Yes, it's a must-have book, even though the first section is very rough going and the last section is just a mess. But the middle section, roughly the lifetime of W.U., is great. He does speak rather well of AT&T in the years under Vail when it had control of W.U.

Yes, it does seem to have been government policy to keep W.U. with exactly one foot in the grave at all times. Maybe there was a miscalculation that allowed the whole body to fall in.

I have some interesting documents concerning presentations by W.U. and AT&T to a government committee back in the 1950s. W.U. makes the point that AT&T is cream-skimming the telegraph business. But they make a really lame argument that there should be only one voice transmission company and one record transmission company. There's no way W.U. could ever had met the demand that something like DataPhone service supplied. And it's nonsense to think that the wires care what kind of traffic is traversing them.

I don't know if either AT&T or WU realized, at the time WU acquired TWX, that the best days of TWX were already over. TWX was a person-to- person messaging system, and the future was person-to-computer messaging.

Back in the Vail years at AT&T, when AT&T was forced to give up control over W.U., one could argue that the nation lost the last opportunity to have a coherent, integrated voice and record wire communication system.

And perhaps also kept the company from closing a lot of offices that should have been converted to agencies. Of course the best way to convert offices to agencies would have been for the agencies to use TWX.

It's interesting to speculate what could have happened if W.U. had used its own microwave network in the way MCI did, if W.U. had been aggressive like MCI was.

Also it seems that W.U. was never able to sell its microwave services to the TV networks, which must have been a real money-maker for AT&T.

Yes, one could say W.U.'s goose was cooked way back in the 1870s when W.U. refused the offer to acquire all the Bell patents. After that it was downhill all the way.

And it seems like there is such a thing as corporate senility, where a company might as well die and be replaced by others.

Yeah. I just wish somebody in the business press had written about which chickens came home to roost, and what each one entailed. For instance, they had Plan 55 for the Air Force, which was obsoleted by AUTODIN, and I wonder if they had a profit on Plan 55 or a loss because of its short service life. Same for AUTODIN - perhaps all that computer hardware became obsolete long before it was amortized. They put in TELEX in competition with TWX, and I wonder if all that investment was amortized quickly enough.

It seems as if AT&T financed its expansion by selling stock, until the government forced it to rely more on borrowing money; and I don't recall W.U. issuing and selling more stock to pay for these big investments.

There was a point where they tried to turn themselves into a tele- computing company, but for some reason they didn't make it. Probably this would have required a big infusion of new capital and they couldn't swing it, what with being government regulated on one hand and an ancient corporation with a lot of corporate baggage on the other.

There is a technology factor here, however. W.U. spent a lot of money on FAX, but never was able to use it as much of a money maker. I remember in

1964 there was some company attempting to compete with W.U. by setting up agents all over the country with fax machines and modems on the AT&T network. The fax technology at the time was awful, used wet electrolytic paper for recording and a clumsy method of scanning. Fax really took off when the Japanese machines came along a few years later, and when you no longer had to rent the modem from AT&T.
Reply to
Jim Haynes

I remember back in the last 70's and early 80's WU had a contract with the post office for mail gram service, they also offered the service to companies and others over a network much like GTE's Telenet, but it was ran by MCI. I had a Home banking account with BofA and with that they gave us access to the WU Union network, we could also send e-mail to other subscribers on the network, which for that time was way ahead of the time.

Reply to
Steven Lichter

In the case of W.U. I think it's partly because it's decline was slow and gradual and there were several attempts at renewal. Further, it isn't exactly clear what the "end" date was--bankruptcy? Sale?

In other words, if WU, as an ongoing business, suddenly announced it was bankrupt, that would've made more news. Since their biggest business was money transfers and that would continue as before under the "WU" name, the impact wasn't as severe. If, say, that service was discontinued and picked up under different terms by another company, it'd be more newsworthy.

In addition, I think at the end Western Union's customer base was pretty small and there were alternatives.

The Horn & Hardart Automat chain suffered a similar fate. It had a slow graduate decline and whithered away.

Unlike the Automats which had a high nostalgia feeling (although not as paying customers), I don't think the public really gave much thought to WU; perhaps only the employees cared.

I doubt it was a single mistake, but rather a continuing series of mistakes coupled with a shrinking market and changing technology. Look at IBM and Unisys. IBM was at high risk to fail but new outside mgmt changed direction and saved the company. Unisys, once Burroughs and Univac, is a tiny shadow of itself.

As a regulated company, AT&T was granted a monopoly. But WU did not have that priviledge. That is, I don't think WU would've been allowed to offer _switched_ voice services if it had the capability and desire to do so pre-deregulation.

WU could and did offer data transmission. But wires do care about what's on them since broadband requires a higher quality carrier, be it open wire on a highway or a microwave. I think WU simply didn't have very much broadband to compete with what a dial-up or leased voice grade line could offer.

As I said, I don't know how well WU marketed its data transmission services. It certainly had them and had corporate customers, but I have no idea how many. WU offered private line voice service, too, but again I don't know how many customers it had for it.

In the 1950s AT&T found itself with a huge demand for long distance service and it had to aggressively build new microwave and coax channels to support it. Further, AT&T was migrating away from operator delayed call handling to customer dialed demand call handling, and that required more channels.

So, if AT&T had to build a new network, WU could've done so as well. Indeed, WU advertisements of the early 1960s says it was doing exactly that--building microwave towers and broadband terminals. What I wonder is how much of that it was really doing and how much was resting on 50 baud.

In one WU Tech article, it is clear WU doesn't like the coming of ASCII to replace Baudot. I'm not sure if they were pleased about the TTY 32 (3 row 5 bit) machines. That to me is a big warning sign.

I suspect AT&T knew at the time of the TWX sale. That sale happened pretty late in the game.

Interesting argument. Of course at the time it was felt AT&T was big and powerful and giving up WU was seen as a worthwhile concession.

I felt (still feel) the 1983 deregulation had a lot of harm and increased costs to the nation's communications network. But everyone else thinks it was a great idea.

A retail 'branch office" that merely sold wire transfers and telegrams should've been a contract agency. But in a city, such an office could've been a base for marketing and tech reps to serve corporate and industrial customers in that city.

I think a real unanswered question is how much microwave coaxial capacity did WU have, how well was it utilized, how well did they sell it to customers, etc. I'm speculating, but I suspect AT&T marketing and technical people made a superior impression on the broadcasters than the WU people did. TV broadcasting might have been popular, but it required high reliablility, backup circuits, and quick switching. (Not all affiliates carry all network shows). AT&T also had the advtg of long experience providing high grade radio network transmissions.

I don't know what AT&T charged WU for that 'last mile". Low speed teletype can be multiplexed over voice calls on the same wire so maybe it was cheap. Today new competing local phonecos complain about former Bell System companies charging too much for the local loop.

If Bell System rates were cheap to WU, and I suspect in the old days they were, WU could get along fine.

In old big cities in the downtown WU had its own lines. Before the war those could handle much of the business. During the war many new plants sprung up in the country where WU had no lines.

As much as I hate to admit it, that is true. Sometimes the "soul" of a business is just too tired or has so many problems it just can't adapt. As mentioned, walking into a WU office was like taking a step back into the 1950s. Not pleasant.

I suspect the Wall Street Journal has articles on it, but I don't know how or if it is indexed for the 1960s onward. One would have to dig through many tiny articles and see how collectively they indicate trends. I doubt there was one single item. That would be a big research effort.

In the examples you gave, I suspect WU was used to having a much longer lifespan for equipment than modern electronics offered. Consequently, they probably were obsolete before amortized as you say. Modern inventions play havoc--one day you have a top product but tomorrow someone else has an even better product.

AT&T had problems in that area over the years, sometimes it was forced to borrow, sometimes it was forced to go equity depending on market conditions and capital demands.

I have no idea how WU was perceived in the financial markets, although by the 1970s I don't think it had the greatest image.

The record is quite clear that in the late 1950s WU recognized the individual telegram was not in its future and it wanted more high tech corporate/government contracts. By the late 1950s AT&T long distance rates had dropped enough so that a quick telephone call was cheaper than a telegram, and certainly better as a communication means since it was two-way.

In 1962 WU published a full separate advertising section in the New York Times talking about the future. The unknown question is how well WU marketing this future to prospective customers and how well they delivered on it. [I'll post more details on this section if anyone is interested.]

By the time modern dial-up fax machines came out (say early 1980s, such as the Xerox "telecopier") the traditional telegram was essentially long dead and WU was already a very weak company.

As said, WU offered many fax services, such as distributing US Weather Bureau maps, and providing for Desk Fax transmissions from business to business.

Reply to

It's a complicated story of how a long-established company flailed

> about trying to find its way in a world of rapidly changing > technology, new regulatory landscapes, upstart competitors, turbulent > capital markets and strained labor relations.

So true.

I'm astonished that no one has written a decent business history of > the company during the quarter century of tumult from 1980 to 2005.

I think the real issue is what happened between 1970-1980; by 1980 the decisions and expenditures had been made that locked in the company. I think after 1980 the company was too weak to _properly_ go after new and changing technologies and markets in a _meaningful_ way. Further, the upstart competitors (like MCI) hit it hard.

I've heard (unconfirmed) that by 1980 WU depended on AT&T for most of its transmissions, and AT&T rate increases hit WU hard. I don't know whatever became of WU own's microwave network and its efforts to launch a satellite.

What's very ironic is that in the 1980s WU was trying to do all the 'right' things, but apparently their efforts were inadequate. As others mentioned, they offered email. They attempted to be a long distance carrier, and other e-services.

What we don't know is what the company was like on the inside.

Here is some information which I pulled together which may be of help > to you.  (Keep in mind that I am retaining the book and movie rights.)

Thanks for the details.

February 12, 2006 > >    Beginning in the mid-19th century, the telegram was the most immediate

WU knew the telegram had no future as far back as 1960. But the general public associated the telegram with Western Union, even if they never sent them.

In 1977 one of their operators told me virtually all traffic was in money transfers and they were received and sent orally to/from agents over AT&T lines. The few telegrams were received and delivered orally over the phone as well.

(As an aside, the operator was very well paid for that kind of work due to the union; this is why I wonder if their internal costs were an issue. Note that the former Bell System units, both AT&T and the babies, survived by establishing new subsidiaries of much lower paid non-union workers, and reducing the traditional union workers to as small a group as possible. One reason AT&T allowed customers to buy their phones at divesture was not divesture but the realization that it cost more to keep people to install, repair, and remove phones 24/7 than they made in rent.)

Thanks for the news references. Could I ask where you got the WSJ? I'd like to look at the full text for some of them. To me they show the company was in trouble by about 1980.

October 24, 1984    (The New York Times) >    Western Union Loss >    UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J., Oct. 23 -- The Western Union Corporation, >    citing heavy investment costs for its electronic-mail service

It would be interesting to see the internal papers on exactly what that "heavy investment costs" were to see if they were reasonable and consistent with industry averages.

February 11, 1986    (The Wall Street Journal) >    Western Union To Post '85 Loss Of $370 Million --- Write-Down of >    $300 Million In 4th Quarter Is Cited; Restructuring Continues     >    UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. -- Western Union Corp. said it will post a >    $370 million loss for 1985 because of a fourth-quarter write-down >    of $300 million on certain transmission and switching equipment.

It would be interesting to know specifically what "transmission and switching equipment" they were writing off and the state of the rest of their network.

Reply to

And, getting slightly off topic, it appears the airlines are about to go the way of W.U. I haven't flown in quite a while, because it is such an ordeal these days. Picked up a friend at the airport last night and was reading the posters about baggage charges. $15 for the first bag, plus $125 if it weighs more than 50 lbs, plus $125 if it is bigger than some measure of length+width+height. $25 for the second bag, with the same addons for weight and size. $125 for the third through sixth bags, plus the addons for weight and size. $250 for seventh, etc. Not that I ever want to carry that many bags; but with nonsense like that I'm ready for airline regulation to come back. Have them charge enough for the ticket to make a profit, and bundle in all those services like baggage handling and food.

But getting back on topic, the deregulation ideologues seem oblivious to the technology that has driven rates down, and like to attribute it all to competition.

Reply to
Jim Haynes

In the ?early 1980s? I used to see Western Union vans, with the (then) new "WU" logo on them, pulling fiber lines through conduits in Manhattan. So they were at least trying to parlay their various licenses and physical plant into something.

Reply to
danny burstein

What has happened (and this is obliquely relevant to telecom) is that the airlines are more focused on selling every seat than on making money. So they've priced the flights too low, and then, oops, we're not making money, we've got to charge more for something!

Airline travel is, in my opinion, priced too low to sustain the necessary level of quality. The other thing that commonly has this problem is parking at universities -- in short supply because they don't have the gumption to charge what it would really cost to build proper facilities.

Reply to

Actually, I don't think it is off-topic but relevant to our discussions. The telephone industry is partly deregulated and partly still under traditional regulation and the situation is always changing. The experiences of other de-regulated industries, good or bad, are very important to be aware.

In the case of the airlines, the public was so happy to have cheap air travel no one questioned whether it was realistic (it wasn't) nobody thought about it further.

As mentioned, the positives of deregulation are often mentioned, but the negatives are often glossed over.

Many of the advocates of Bell System deregulation were not customers seeking better service or lower prices, but vendors seeking to get into the telecom industry. They lobbied very aggressively for it. Just because deregulation was good their own companies did not necessarily mean it was good for the general public.

Over in the railroad newsgroup there are some people who obsessed with the idea that ONLY a competitive marketplace of private businesses is the way to go; that government run (e.g. Amtrak) or monopolized companies are evil. While generally that is true, it is also quite true that a true free marketplace is extremely rare in real life, and to act like it freely exists is to deny economic reality.

It is a fact that the Bell System continually introduced new technologies that made telephone service cheaper, easier to use, and more powerful. By 1983, the Bell System had introduced many cost saving measures that had nothing to do with divesture.

Post-divesture savings like cheaper long distance and customer owned equipment were NOT the result of competition, but changed rate structures and public policy (like ending long distance cross- subsidy). Things like cellular phones were invented by the old Bell System years ago and would be in use today divesture or not.

Getting back to Western Union, I think the real question is what exactly were they doing with new technologies in the 1960s and 1970s. My own unconfirmed suspicion is that the bulk of their network and services were locked into 5-bit slow Teletype, and only a few customers had broadband opportuntiies.

Reply to

A persistent rumor during the late seventies was that AT&T found it convenient to keep Western Union around. Given the historical record, the demise of WU would have triggered anti-trust litigation. After the Divestiture agreement there was no need for favorable treatment of WU since there was, for a while, genuine competition in the inter- city market. WU collapsed rapidly after its supports were removed.

I wonder if there is any truth to this view of history?

Reply to
Jack Myers

In the late 1970's I worked for a division of Western Union in Mahwah, NJ called Western Union Data Services. It was a starting place for a newly minted electronic technician fresh out of the local community college. I started at the bottom, taking apart old model 28 thru 32 Teletype machines so they could be placed on the refurb line for a rebuild. I stayed there for two years, closing out time served in their electronic test and repair department and filling in as needed as an engineering lab bench tech. The OJT was good, coworkers friendly, but the salary stunk.

I was getting married and needed a job where the salary could pay the bills and moved on.

From what I remember they had contracts with a couple of large corporate internal networks. Ones that come to mind were a network used by big tobacco companies and interbank funds transfer system called Bankwire. First line management was pretty good. Second line management seemed aloof, rarely seen on the plant floor and may have been demoted wanna be senior executives. I saw the division head once at an all hands meeting. The word was that he was to congratulate the troops on exceeding targets for the month. Instead he told us we should congratulate ourselves, so he never said we did a good job... the shark skin suit type of business exec. Has was on the plant floor less than 5 minutes. Too good to deal with us grunts.

A few years after I left I heard the place went downhill, people were at their stations with no work to do, waiting for the hammer to fall.

Steve N2UBP

Reply to
Steve Stone

That's ok, I was walking down my residential street today and what two manhole covers did I see? One for Level3 and one for MFN which both belong to Verizon now.

Reply to

As documented in the Oslin book, AT&T did provide WU with favorable rates. However, when MCI came along, it demanded a similar treatment, but instead the discounts were removed. I'm not sure if that was before or after divesture.

It is certainly possible that AT&T supported WU for anti-trust protection. Business leaders in other industries could've crushed all opposition but deliberately didn't to avoid (or hope to avoid) anti-trust actions (e.g. GM and IBM).

But it must be remembered that the AT&T regulated monopoly was supported by public officials in order to provide for low cost universal service.

Reply to

When I first started teaching at Western Carolina University, there was very little incentive to obey the parking regulations on campus. If you got a ticket, it was five dollars. Not paying it did not hold up your grades, it only held up your graduation (if you got that far).

So some students would park anywhere and would always be getting tickets which they would forego paying the entire rest of the time they were at the university. Then they would get to graduation time and discover that they had several thousand dollars worth of parking tickets and they couldn't graduate. They'd go home and ask 'mommy and daddy' how bad they wanted them to graduate. For myself, I'd have made the kid go to the bank and take out a loan to pay it off. But most of the parents would bail them out and pay their tickets so they could get their degree.

One day, one of the professors in my department was about to pull into a faculty parking place when a student cut in front of her. She asked him if he knew it was a faculty space. He said that he did but that there was nothing she could do about it and left to go to his class. She immediately called the campus police on her cell phone. They came over and ticketed his vehicle. But beyond the five dollar fine, he skated on it.

After I'd been there for a year, the university decided to get tough. They purchased parking boots to imobilize the cars of students that hadn't paid their parking tickets. They also implemented a rule that upon your fifth parking ticket on campus that your privilege to park on campus was suspended for the remainder of the semester. Your grades were held up and you wouldn't be allowed to register for the next semester until the tickets were paid. They began to tow when it became necessary.

The parking situation became much more manageable and the habit of obeying parking regulations increased by a long shot.

I never once got a ticket on campus. I didn't see it all that hard to obey the parking regulations so I didn't see why the students were having such a problem with it.

I did come back to my car and found one of the parking patrol officers with his vehicle parked behind my vehicle and a boot in his hand. I ran over and asked him why he was booting my car. He smiled, laughed, and then told me it wasn't my car he was booting. It was the one parked next to me. Oh, well.


Reply to
Fred Atkinson

I don't think Level 3 belongs to Verizon, at least not yet, their stock is still listed. In 1999 I did a switch install in their Los Angeles Switch, the place scared the hell out of me, it was an accident waiting to happen, no one seemed to know what was going on or even cared.

Reply to
Steven Lichter

A few WU comments...

When I arrived in San Luis Obispo to go to Cal Poly in 1969, right next to the Greyhound Bus station was a Western Union office, full of Teletypes, tape punches, readers, etc. I think a guy in the local ham radio club was a tech for them. I don't recall when the office was closed, but it's long gone now.

On cost of service versus price, and university parking, Cal Poly has found that it is less expensive to give away bus passes than it is to build new parking structures. So, some of the parking fees go towards the purchase of bus passes for other students.


Reply to

Thanks for your post.

While we can't form hard conclusions by one story, I did find this interesting.

In the late 1970s the model 28-32 TTYs were close to obsolescence. They were low speed Baudot machines. In contrast, in 1973 GE offered quiet-running 300 baud ASCII terminals and I believe Control Data offered ASCII CRT terminals. Perhaps existing AP customers were ok with 50 baud for their news Teletypes, but I suspect any new prospective customers would want much better.

To me, a forward-looking company in the late 1970s would be scrapping such old machines and replacing them with faster models of the modern ASCII.

Again, we can't reach hard conclusions, but this story does make me wonder. It made very good sense that WU set up a "Data Services" unit. But what was this unit offering customers? If memory serves, in 1979 we were using at least 4800 baud synchronous on leased lines, maybe 9600 baud, and around '81 we were using digital.

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

Speed and code are two different things: for ordinary text transmissions, Baudot/Murray code is sometimes faster than ASCII, since it has a shorter word, no parity, and only upper case.

Consider, please, that evaluating a new technology isn't just a question of "new" vs. "old" - forward-looking companies will look to the bottom line, and replace existing systems only when _all_ the factors have been considered. The first programming I did for Ma Bell was on a system that generated "dispatch" orders using model 28 RO machines, and they were retained until CRT's came in along with mini & micro-computers. Another machine might have been faster, but there was no point in switching, since the old technology was still reliable, the techs were trained on it, and the spare parts inventory was specific to that type of printer. The Model 28 TeleTypes were "old", but still reliable and less expensive than newer technology for the job they were called on to do.

Bill Horne Temporary Moderator

Please put [Telecom] at the end of your subject line, or I may never see your post! Thanks!

We have a new address for email submissions: telecomdigestmoderator atsign This is only for those who submit posts via email: if you use a newsreader or a web interface to contribute to the digest, you don't need to change anything.

Reply to

Depends on what they were used for. In the very early 80s I worked for a firm who used telex (IIRC it was a GE terminal). If you needed international communications, especially to the third world, that was what you needed. A year later, we replaced the telex with cheaper (RCA) TWX, with a stand-alone box (Datatronix, Reston VA, S/n 003, never ever buy anything that's S/n 003) that had enough memory to store incoming messages at night when everything else was shut off. (And used an IBM Displaywriter as the ASCII terminal to connect to it, since that was in the room anyhow and was connected to a printer.) By the mid-80s we did it all with PC clones that connected via dialup.


Reply to
Dave Garland

For very plain vanilla text only I guess Baudot, being 3 bits smaller per character, would be faster. (Although Baudot wasted a character for every shift to numeric and shift out).

But I suspect customers of a "data service" in that era would be interested in connecting directly to/from a computer which usually would require ASCII. Often times special punctuation was used that Baudot didn't support.

When it comes to saving money and utlizing old equipment until it has turned to dust, no goes further than me (where my 'new' telephone sets are 20 years old and others are 30-60 years old).

As a regulated company, the Bell System tended to build extremely rugged and long lasting equipment which stayed in service for many years. But around divesture it found itself rapidly dumping perfectly good crossbar switches and replacing them with digital ESS, then replacing good older analog ESS's with digital switches. Sure, they got 50 years out of a Panel or SxS switch, but later switches would become functionally obsolete.

But the _attitude_ of many buyers in the IT marketplace is "new is better". Many prospective new customers weren't interested in seeing old fashioned model 28 Teletypes, just as today they aren't interested in seeing mainframe supported 'green-on-glass' terminal interfaces.

I remember getting airline and rent-a-car tickets in the 1970s, and their teleprinters were fancier than the 28. More significantly, they were faster, perhaps double the speed (7 to 15 characters a second) and that makes a difference when a lot is to be printed.

In the late 1970s there were certainly some applications for a receive- only model 28 TTY, I would see them around. But these usually weren't computerized. The growth was in computer supported inquiries and on- line interaction.

Many organizations were developing sophisticated mainframe on-line applications in the late 1970s and acquiring private leased lines from AT&T for data transmission. My question is how well did WU participate in that business? As stated, they set up an organization, they advertised, they developed technology. How far did it go?

Reply to
hancock4 Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.