1980s – 1990s – The Rise of Electronics with Telephony

The major US telephone company, AT&T was already seeing pressure of the monopoly spiraling down from Far East brands and the rise of computers getting small. Before the “Two Steves”, that is Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak invented a  Blue Box that was an electronic device that emitted 2500hz of a tone to bypass the Long Lines. This was due to an engineering loophole of the Electronic Switching Systems AT&T had at the time. Because the switching was analog, this type of hackery was possible. In the early 1980s, AT&T actually acquired DMS switching systems from you guessed it Northern Telecom!

The Core of most American telephone networks up till the 1990s – A Step by Step like switch.

Steve Jobs told to a national WGBH documentary entitled The Machine that Changed the World in 1992 that “we made the greatest blue boxes, but I don’t think they work today”. The statement is half true for that time, because most of the innovations of electronics was built around archaic electromechanical switching systems. Despite the coolness factor of ESS (or DMS if you like Nortel) these didn’t fully take over the country till the mid 1990s, nearly five plus years after Steve Jobs was on the record for that documentary!

Answering machines, alarm detection systems, modems to dial up to other networks, and act as an Internet service provider had came out of the woodwork from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s. Also the idea that a telephone was more than to make telephone calls was also the priority even back then. But in those days, it was to look at.  Also, you could save on rental phones and buy one at your local RadioShack. So it breaks? Just dump it and replace it!

Also around this same time, mobility became the rage. The first cell phones was developed and first went to market by Motorola in the mid 1970s. AT&T would go into this market and introduce Advance Mobile Phone Service. With this, lead of a rise of what was first “car phones”, hard wired phones to a car. Later they became more portable and could move car to car; and later the first portable phone, that weighed and shaped like a brick would come to market in the late 1980s.

And of course, if you’d prefer “The Shack”, they also offered such sets like you see below:

The takeaway of the rise of electronics was how much innovation was introduced in a core network that was dated. It should be noted for future IT managers or telephony dudes to understand it is possible to use dated equipment and devices and tie them together in a modern way. The “throw away society” along with “planned obsolsenesce” and less on “evergreen” promises has diminished this idea.