Touch-Tone telephone dialing (commonly called push-button dialing) made its major public debut at the New York World's Fair in 1964, located in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. The Bell System provided about 7,000 pay phones for the fair grounds of new Touch Tone telephones in futuristic swirl phone booths. (The booths were spacious and had thick dividers for good acoustics. However, they were open at the top. A simple canopy gave some rain protection, but not as much as the traditional phone booth did.)
I believe direct distance dialing (via TSP) was also available from fair coin telephones.
Unlike many other enterprises involved with the fair, New York Telephone charged its normal rates. Local calls from the fair were a dime, like everywhere else.
Part of the publicity was providing the fair president, Robert Moses, with a Touch Tone phone for his desk*.
This debut followed successful trials and offerings of service in the towns of Carnegie and Greensburg, Pennsylvania in November of 1963.
In April 1964, residents of Queens, New York, where the fair was held, could order Touch Tone for their homes. The rate was $1.90 per residential line per month. (Pennsylvania subscribers could get it for $1.50 per month).
Everything didn't go smoothly. In April 1964, before the fair opened, there were problems with pilferage from exhibits. Bell Telephone claimed 3,500 of its 6,500 phones were vandalized even though "the phones won't work anywhere else". The newspaper report on this wasn't too clear, but I find it hard to believe that 3,500 pay phones were stolen or even vandalized. But behind the scenes, things weren't going well at the Fair; a great deal of dissention.
I wonder how much extra switching capacity and trunking had to be installed in the Corona-Flushing Central Office to accomodate all the World's Fair traffic from both exhibitors and patrons. Obviously TT converters were necessary, but they'd need more capacity overall, plus long distance trunking and operator services for all the toll calls, even with TSP.
If anyone attended the 1964-65 fair and visited the Bell Telephone pavilion, perhaps you could share your experiences. One popular demonstration at the fair was Picturephone, which is one prediction of the future that never came to be.
Western Union had an exhibit where one could send a telegram home for $1.00.
Ref: "The End of Innocence, The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair" by Lawrence R. Samuel, 2007.
As an aside, do they still have World's Fairs? I never hear of them.
- Moses was a very busy and powerful man, holding numerous governmental positions, building parks, highways, dams and power stations, and housing projects. His personal office telephone system was very simple. He also refused to have a mobile telephone in his car, preferring to use that time for uninterupted work.
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