I was reading a detective novel written back in the '40’s and at one point the hero had a phone call traced. Well, today that wouldn’t be such a big deal. What with all the modern electonics we’ve got, it’s not much of a surprise that a call can be traced to its source in a matter of minutes or even seconds.
But back then they used actual switchboards. (When was the last time you saw a switchboard?) Connections had to be made by hand by a human operator, often more than once. Long distance calls could involve any number of switchboards. Placing a long distance call overseas was a major project; you pretty much had to plan your whole day around it. (Let’s not even talk about the bill.)
So I’m wonderin’. Just exactly how did they trace calls? Did they contact every operator involved in making the connection? How did the operators know which call an investigator wanted? Did she (operators were usually female)keep a log of every connection she made or something? In old gangster movies, you’ll often hear the cliche, “Keep him on the line so we can trace the call.” Was it possible to trace a call only when the connection hadn’t been broken yet?
Somebody help me out here so I can get back to work.