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PinkShoes
10-30-2005, 02:46 AM
Tell me about what used to be "party lines?"

lissener
10-30-2005, 03:14 AM
It's when, instead of each house having its own dedicated phone line, there'd be a group of houses that shared a single phone line. The operator would ring special rings: two short rings is for us, one long ring is for the Joneses. The individual parties would either be designated by name, or by letter: "Call Northside 777 D" for example. Needless to say, all this was back when there were FAR fewer telephones, and each call was put through, and rung, manually, by a human operator.

Idle Thoughts
10-30-2005, 03:42 AM
It's the ring around a girl's leg when she wears her....

Ohh..PARTY lines....



But yeah, what lissener said. They also, for a short time (although I have no idea why or what purpose they served[/b] had this 1 800 or 900 number you could call with all of your friends and talk on THAT if you wanted to have multiple conversations back when that kind of thing wasn't really possible. However, whether it was called a party line I don't know.

What weird things we did back then.

GuanoLad
10-30-2005, 03:44 AM
Our phone used to be on a party line, and our letter was D. We had to listen for the morse code ring of our letter: Dah-Dit-Dit. Also on our line was K (Dah-Dit-Dah), S (Dit-Dit-Dit), and some other letter I can't remember. Might have been M (Dit-Dit), though I think they all had to be three rings so as to be clearly distinguished, so probably not M.

Anyway, the rings were put through by hand by an operator.

You also had to check before you called out that nobody was using the phone in another household already. When a call was complete, we had to leave a short ring of our own to indicate the line was available. But most of the time we had to pick up the handset and ask "working?" and they'd soon tell you if it was occupied or not.

It was remarkably primitive and not even close to being private.

This was all my young life that I can remember up until about 1982, in rural New Zealand.

ftg
10-30-2005, 06:20 AM
1. Party lines had nothing specifically to do with manual systems. Even automatic exchanges had them.

2. While some systems had special rings, others had mechanisms so that only the intended line would ring clearly. You would only notice a slight "burp" of a ring when there was a call for the other line.

Source: our phone when I was young.

LiQUiDBuD
10-30-2005, 06:32 AM
Not sure if this is what the OP was looking for, but another example of a party line is the 800- and 900- numbers that were so popular in the 1980's. You could call in and "party" with people across the nation (most of whom you didn't know I'm sure) for a per-minute charge.

Personally, I was too young to get caught up in this fad, but I'm sure there were a lot of large, unpaid phone bills in those days. Not to mention a lot of whipped kids :D

LiQUiDBuD

chrisk
10-30-2005, 07:40 AM
The term 'party line' also has a meaning in politics, I believe, as in a series of laws and other votes that a political party considers to be included in their mandate, and thus that they would like any legislators in their party to vote accordingly: voting the party line. :)

Rhythmdvl
10-30-2005, 07:44 AM
The individual parties would either be designated by name, or by letter: "Call Northside 777 D" for example.


What did the Northside refer to? Was it the neighborhood? How did that work for long distance—i.e. how many operators did it take to reach Springfield 123 D in state X from Springfield in state Y?

bienville
10-30-2005, 07:49 AM
I was very confused when I first heard the Kinks Song (http://kinks.it.rit.edu/cgi-bin/MusicSearch.cgi?song=regular/facetoface/song-partyline) even from context I could not imagine what they might be talking about, the concept was so foreign to me.

toadspittle
10-30-2005, 07:52 AM
Weren't there also instances, long after private telephone lines had become the norm, that telephone exchanges would get messed up, accidentally turning phone numbers into party lines? (which teens would soon find out about and exploit in the manner of the 900-number party lines, until Ma Bell caught on and fixed the problem)

ftg
10-30-2005, 09:36 AM
Weren't there also instances, long after private telephone lines had become the norm, that telephone exchanges would get messed up, accidentally turning phone numbers into party lines? (which teens would soon find out about and exploit in the manner of the 900-number party lines, until Ma Bell caught on and fixed the problem)

In addition to errors, there would occasionally be numbers set aside for phone service testing that would have this property. Linemen could call the number and presumably chat with other linemen. Once such a number would leak out, the local teens would jump on it in no time. This happened a couple of times when I was in high school.

Phone Phreaks would also sometimes convince a rookie tech at a phone center to throw the right switches to turn a line into one of these. (And in later years do this remotely themselves thanks to automation.)

Exapno Mapcase
10-30-2005, 10:32 AM
Named exchanges generally referred to sections of a city. However, just the first two letters of the exchange were used. Ours used to be Baker, so we would dial BA, or 22. It was just a mnemonic, like 1-800-ROLAIDS.

That's why it was so easy to convert to all numbers. They already really were.

And yes, party lines were in existence long after they stopped using manual operators and went to automatic exchanges. It was simply cheaper for people to be part of a 2-party line and cheaper yet to be on a 4-party line and for poverty families like ours that made a difference.

Eve
10-30-2005, 10:51 AM
What did the Northside refer to? Was it the neighborhood?

Philadelphia was still using the old exchanges when I moved away in the late '70s (1970s, if you please). My childhood phone number was in the MOhawk 4 exchange; my mother still lives at a LAfayette 5 number (though we write it out as "525" to avoid confusing the young 'uns).

Cheez_Whia
10-30-2005, 11:06 AM
I, too, grew up with a party line. You couldn't call someone that shared your line without the help of an operator. My grandmother's phone was once connected to the same line we had, and my mom had to call the phone company to have it changed so we could call her.

My best friend lived 17 miles out of town, and I could call her for free; a call to the next town 11 miles away was a toll call, and had to be placed through an operator.

yabob
10-30-2005, 11:08 AM
...
And yes, party lines were in existence long after they stopped using manual operators and went to automatic exchanges. It was simply cheaper for people to be part of a 2-party line and cheaper yet to be on a 4-party line and for poverty families like ours that made a difference.
In addition to the cost factor, they were sometimes all that was available in rural areas because local loops were very long, and the phone company didn't want to run huge amounts of copper to give each house separated by, say, half a mile, their own wire.

rfgdxm
10-30-2005, 01:23 PM
1. Party lines had nothing specifically to do with manual systems. Even automatic exchanges had them.

2. While some systems had special rings, others had mechanisms so that only the intended line would ring clearly. You would only notice a slight "burp" of a ring when there was a call for the other line.

Source: our phone when I was young.
I can confirm this from the phone my family had when I was young in the 1960s and 1970s. Only the intended line would ring. However, if you tried to use the line while another party was on, you couldn't and would hear the other party. Apparently party lines still exist. My local phone book has a warning if you are on a party line, you MUST relinquish the line if another party states they have to make an emergency call.

toadspittle
10-30-2005, 02:07 PM
My best friend lived 17 miles out of town, and I could call her for free; a call to the next town 11 miles away was a toll call, and had to be placed through an operator.


Why was it free to your friend, but not the next town? I'm not following from the explanation re: Grandma.


Also, party line partygoers: If you were in the Grandma situation previously described, couldn't you both just set a prearranged time (7:17 AM, say), both pick up the phone at the same time, and (assuming no other users on line) just chat away without dialing a number or calling the operator? (Obviously, spontaneous/emergency calls are out of the question here.)

Cheez_Whia
10-30-2005, 08:30 PM
Why was it free to your friend, but not the next town? I'm not following from the explanation re: Grandma.


Also, party line partygoers: If you were in the Grandma situation previously described, couldn't you both just set a prearranged time (7:17 AM, say), both pick up the phone at the same time, and (assuming no other users on line) just chat away without dialing a number or calling the operator? (Obviously, spontaneous/emergency calls are out of the question here.)

My friend and I had the same exhange, in our case BLackburn. The next town was WHitehall. Any call made outside your exchange was a toll call.

You could, technically, make arrangements like you suggest, but it's not convenient for either party. My grandmother was elderly, and lived on the other side of town. She refused to live with my parents, and was in fact independent until two or three years before her death, when she entered a rest home after falling in her yard and breaking her leg.

gotpasswords
10-31-2005, 12:23 AM
In addition to errors, there would occasionally be numbers set aside for phone service testing that would have this property. Linemen could call the number and presumably chat with other linemen. Once such a number would leak out, the local teens would jump on it in no time. This happened a couple of times when I was in high school.

About 20 years ago, I made a batch of timers for a local phone company that would kill their lineman chat lines in something like 20 seconds. Just enough for the outside plant guys to say "OK, this line's working now" or whatever.

As for controlling whose phone would ring on some party lines, some phones would be wired with the ringer connected to the "tip" side of the line and earth ground. Others would be connected to "ring" and ground. ("tip" and "ring" refer to the parts of a switchboard plug, and normal phone lines are just two wires - one's called tip and the other's called ring, and usually, earth ground has nothing to do with either.)

LiveOnAPlane
10-31-2005, 12:29 AM
Weren't there also instances, long after private telephone lines had become the norm, that telephone exchanges would get messed up, accidentally turning phone numbers into party lines? (which teens would soon find out about and exploit in the manner of the 900-number party lines, until Ma Bell caught on and fixed the problem)
Yes!

This thing actually happened to us in 1964 when one of my uncles died and we were trying to get the word out (on a private line) and somehow we got cross-connected to some dude who still had a party line and we could not get another connection. And, this cretin refused to hang up.

Fortunately, Niceville was a very small town in 1964 and Dad went over to our neighbor's house, and called the chief of police, who called the operator and found out who the culprit was and paid him a little visit in person. Problem solved.

(Notation: Just to be fair, it was no fault of the cretin that we somehow got connected to his party line. Just that he was a cretin by not having any salt of human kindness in a semi-emergency/very sad situation)

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