OPERATOR2015 | Site-specific / Interactive / Audio-Visual Installation
An now-obsolete 1949 instructional film, originally used for educating telephone switchboard operators | 1 x hand cranking, meat grinding machine | 2 x piezo vibration detectors | 1 x atmospheric microphone | 2-channel video projection | Computer | 2.1 sound configuration | Various found objects.
Photos taken @ Skopje CIty Walll Underground, © Ana Lazarevska.
- An exchange presents an interesting sight. About three sides of the great room, reaching very nearly to the ceiling, set in a structure that reminds one of an inner shell or wall, is a switchboard, with its projecting ledge. Along it, as closely as comfort will allow, are girls, and yet more girls.
- Half a hundred, girls sit so close together that their frocks touch, and yet not a word of gossip is heard. The room is almost a silent one. A step close to the switchboard makes you conscious of click after click, and the low-spoken words of the operators in answer to each call. That is absolutely all.
- If it were permitted to chat with subscribers, to gossip with each other, the telephone girls would have no time. It is nothing unusual for an expert operator to answer 125 calls an hour. She may even answer 150, or two and a half a minute. On the trunk lines, where the process is simpler and where exchanges are joined, as many as 600 connections are often made in an hour.
- Sometimes for five full minutes it is a mad race with the girl at the case to attend to all the demands made upon her. Perhaps, at certain hours of the day, things may calm down, and her hands, for a moment or two, lie idly in her lap. But even then she must be on the queue for new calls, her eyes on the lookout.
- Contrary to the belief of the public, a bell does not warn the telephone girl when the customer rings up “central.” A little metal disk falls, displaying the subscriber’s number, and that only, with no sound, with hardly a stir…
- One of the disks of a drop falls, and the number is displayed. Quick as thought the girl takes up a plug (which itself fits in a hole, its long cord falling even below the floor,) and sticks it sharply in the hole whose number corresponds with the number on the disk. At the same instant she has thrown the little lever on a line with the plug’s hole, and is already asking “What number, please?”
- If the number that comes to her ears is of the same exchange what remains to be done is simple. The plugs spoken of go in pairs. She has only to pull out its mate, and push it in the proper hole. Then throwing another cam she presses the corresponding ringing button. That rings the bell for the party called. She listens sharply for an instant, then announcing “All right. Go ahead.”
- Her swiftly flying fingers are already busy with another call. One of her subscribers has called for a number on another exchange. She has the plug for his wire already in place, of course, but a more complicated connection is now to be made.
- She presses a calling circuit button on the ledge. This brings to her aid another operator, a girl at the Trunk Line switchboard, of the distant exchange. “1029 Broad,” she remarks quietly through her transmitter. More quickly than the word can be written a number comes back, 10. This is the number of the hole in her switchboard in to which her second plug must go to get the Broad Street connection. The plug is slipped in, the cam thrown, the ringing button pressed. Two more people have bridged space, two more lines of cord stretch over the switchboard, and several more calls are under way.
HELLO! THE TELEPHONE GIRL.
June 11, 1899, p.IMS10
Photos taken @ Skopje CIty Walll Underground. © Sandra Jovanovska.
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