Ghost Rings

I can confirm that the phone company does test individual lines. While I was out of town something was done with my phone line. I got one of those follow up survey calls about the service technician’s work. I called my local phone company and found that their records showed that someone named Oscar had called in a repair order on my phone. There is no one named Oscar who lives or works here. Then I got worried. Once a friend called the phone company to have my ringer volume increased because I told him I had slept through his call. I called the phone company on that one and had it set back again. This time I got through to the regional office since I was so concerned about stray people ordering changes to my phone service when there was nothing wrong with it. Their supervisor told me about the random testing and that something had been found deficient on my line while I was out of town and they fixed it.

Um… ringer volume? I’m no lineman, but as far as I know, nothing at the central office has anything to do with that, even going back to when ringers were electromechanical devices directly actuated by 90Vac ringing voltage

Also, I can’t figure out what column this has to do with.

Ring ghosts.

This is the column the OP is talking about.

It is from 1988.

On a similar subject … I have cable (cable tv, telephone, internet) and every so often the phone will ring … once.

Sometimes the phone will ring once and the tv screen (which is turned off) will flash.

The other night the phone rang once, the tv screen flashed, and the cable modem got knocked offline.

When I asked Comcast about it they said they had no idea what I was talking about.

Are they testing the lines? Voltage spike? Poltergeists? (Not really.)

Back in the Olden Times, when Ma Bell kept your deposit for as long as it wanted and did not pay interest on it, they charged you if you had more than one phone in your house. They charged you if you wanted a longer phone cable; they charged you for every damn thing you wanted. One of the ways they could tell if you had more than one phone in your home was using the ‘Ghost Ring’; more phones changed the electrical responses. What we did was to disconnect the electromagnet that rang the phone bell. Eventually, AT&T was broken up and people were allowed to own their own phones and all those income streams went away.

Does your cable box have a phone-line connection. Many do, for billing on-demand programs. (Our Dish Network satellite box has such a connection; it also puts Caller ID on-screen.)

If the screen flashes, I doubt that your TV is actually off. The cable box may be off but from what you describe, the TV itself is still on, it’s simply blank because there’s no signal from the box. It couldn’t flash if it’s off. You’re wasting power. I’ve accidentally left my TV on all day once or twice because the box was off and I didn’t realize the TV was still on.

Yes, indeed it does. Which I didn’t think about until you asked, my silly self. Yes, on demand, caller ID, etc.

It seems to me that the phone company back then acted a lot like the cable company does now: they charge you for every TV box you have. Why is it that the phone company had to stop doing that, but the cable company still can do it?

Because these days you’re allowed to buy your own phones rather than rent them from Ma Bell. Your cable boxes, those you have to rent from the local cableco. Even if you do somehow manage to buy one of your own, they won’t activate it (at least in the US). If you can connect your TV without a box, they can’t charge you for that, but since they started shutting down analog, and encrypting the digital channels, that’s gotten a lot harder to do.

Well, for my own part, we do have all of the “wired” household communications (landline phone, cable TV, internet) through the local cable monopoly (not Comcast, though. Thank God.)

We have the single coaxial cable that plugs into a box on the outside wall that apparently has a splitter and the telephony bridge; out of the box comes another coax cable (for cable TV and the cable modem) and the 4-wire phone wiring which goes to the in-house telephone junction box.

So I guard that single slender coaxial jugular vein quite carefully. 3 seconds of careless weed-whacking would put us off the air, other than cell phones (and 4g data associated with them) until someone could splice the cable.

Then why not do that same thing with the phone now, and start charging to “activate” digital phones that would be necessary to work on encrypted phone signals? Phone, internet, TV–it’s all the same thing: signal processing, right?

Interesting column.

Editing suggestions: ital Moonlighting in paragraph 2 of Cecil’s answer, and War Games in paragraph 3.

Thanks, Elendil’s Heir, I’ve brought those to the attention of The Powers That Edit. And thanks for sending it in a report as well, so that I was sure to see it. (I can’t read all the posts in all the threads.)

The OP is probably referring to the Ringer Equivalence Number. If you add more devices to a household circuit, the central office may have to be notified or