Re: Western Union Private Line Voice Service -- "Hot Line"

In the mid 1960s Western Union introduced a private line voice service

> called "Hot Line". In essence, a person lifting the receiver of one > telephone would cause a specified distant telephone to ring over a > private line. The connection was faster and cheaper than placing a > conventional long distance call over the Bell System. WU charged by 6 > second increments and at a lower rate; the Bell System at that time > had a 3 minute minimum. WU says their arrangement was cheaper when > more than 3 calls a day were made. > The connection between the two telephones was actually not a dedicated > private line, but shared use of the WU network via concentrators. If > a circuit was busy there were alternates. > See: >

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The article said the service was popular among brokers between field > offices and the central office serving the stock exchange for calling > in stock orders. Such calls were normally brief. > Obviously this service had some limitations since it was telephone-set > to telephone-set. I don't think this could terminate in a PBX system > to allow shared use of the line by a whole organization which would > give more flexibility.

Correct. It was a dedicated line/circuit. Either physical or 'virtual'.

There was minimalist special-purpose 'central-office' equipment for those lines; two ports. When one port went off-hook, it send 'ring' down the other port. Then the 2nd port went off-hook, it was cross-connected to the first one. After both sides hung up, the system reset itself.

I don't know if WU permitted any kind of > multiple extension sets at the subscriber since a specialized telephone > set they provided was used.

Pretty vanilla innards -- omitting the dial assembly was common.

A limited (max 3?, 5?) number of extensions _were_ supported/allowed by specific arrangement.

For example, a secretary might want to > answer the boss's hot/line phone if he was out. > WU also reported customers wanted to get the service in more cities > than available. > None the less, it seemed like a pretty good idea for its time. > Would anyone know how successful this service was and how long it > lasted?

"Ring down" circuits are not uncommon today, although they have been mostly replaced by ISDN -- which gives you call set-up/completion in less time than you can get the handset from cradle to your ear.

At least in Chicago, the telco provided the dedicated circuits -- dry wire pairs (3002, 3008, types) -- and the customer provided the "C.O." gear, as well as the phones.

Reply to
Robert Bonomi
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