When Did trans-pacific telephone Service Become Available?

I ask because I remember a scene in the movie “Pearl Harbor”. In the movie, there is a scene where a japanese dentist/spy is talking with his superiors (in Japan?), and looking out his window at the US Navy base. US Army intelligence guys had tapped the phone, and were listening in on the conversation.
Was the dentists talking to somebody in Japan? Or was it a local call?
I didn’t think you could call Japan from the USA/Hawaii, until the 1950’s.

Found via Google

Scroll down to the entry for 1934.

Wow, that’s expensive at $39 for the first three minutes. And $39 in 1934 is probably worth ten times that now.

According to the inflation calculators I looked at, that $39 is like $650-odd dollars today. Wow.

From that same page, though, note that there wasn’t a submarine telephone cable across the Pacific until 1964. The link introduced in 1934 was radio-based, and it really seems doubtful that any dentist/spy worth his salt would be using a “clear” radio link to communicate with his superiors.

And only one call at a time could be made.

It was laid in 1934. There were many cables laid by that time. Mostly for intelligence for the Navy. The telegraph cables were in service since the 1800’s.

It amazes me how far we have come in the last 50 years as far as technology but the founding fathers of Telegraph cable were equally ahead of their time. We are approaching 1.92Tb/s!

Here is a link with some interesting submarine cable history.


Actually I didn’t get the impression the dentist was a spy. It seemed like he just got a call from someone asking about the weather. He had a puzzled look on his face when he hung up.

In the same vein, there is a great little book called ‘The Victorian Internet’ that covers the impact of near instantaneous global communication provided by the telegraph.

As someone with the current BBC screening of Pearl Harbor casually on the background this evening, I was reminded of this thread.

The scene is an obvious simplification of a passage in David Kahn’s opening chapter to his classic The Codebreakers. The telephone call wasn’t answered by the dentist, but was taken by his wife. Neither was a spy and it was out of the blue.

The call was indeed monitered by US intelligence.

Oh my god –

I guess the question becomes:

When did it become more common and, well, cheaper? I know it was still expensive compared to today in the 80’s and 90’s, but it was nowhere near $75 for 3 minutes.

It became cheaper because of the invention of fiber optic technology in the 90’s. This increased capacity dramatically. Now we have VOIP and IT Telecoms that deal in computer phones lines. Basically you are using your computer line as a phone line. Vonage even offers free international calling to many countries. Down the road we may all use Voip type telephone communications instead of home phone service. My son got a plug in internet phone line for 20 dollars and with it you get your own number and free calls for a year of unlimited calling and caller ID.

First of all, trans-atlantic and trans-pacific calls had been coming down in price long before the 1990s.

Second of all, the concept of fiber optics was known in the 19th century and had been in commercial for several decades before the 1990s.