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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Alberta's Telephone Heritage
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The first telephone lines connected two points, such as Major Walker’s lumberyard and office in Calgary. To allow callers to connect to a number of different telephones, a switchboard was needed.

Switch board The first switchboards were small battery-powered units which depended on an operator to link the calling party to another customer.

The operator made the connection by placing linked ring and tip plugs in the appropriate jacks on the switchboard. The earliest ‘drop boards’ had a small hinged plate above each jack. The plate was released to drop down when the caller signalled. Later boards had buzzing sounds and lamps to indicate that someone wanted to make a call.

The operator would crank a magneto to send the ringing signal to the telephone receiving the call. In small towns, the operator knew everyone and callers would ask for people by name. In larger centres, callers would ask for the number being called.

Manual switchboards were used in smaller towns such as Fort Saskatchewan and Camrose until the 1950s.

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