Georgia Telephone History

Outside of Atlanta, less is known about the early history of telephone service. It is known that the same patterns of development generally occurred throughout the United States. Southern Bell Telephone had territory throughout the state as well as 6 other states during this time. But there were also a number of small, independent telephone companies operating in the state. Practices in the Bell System companies were fairly well established and standardized. Independent company practices were similar.

Most towns started to get manual switchboards in the late 1800s. The small communities would have used a single position switchboard, sometimes located in a small store or even in someone's home. The larger towns, like Gainesville and Macon had large switchboards with many operator positions, like the Atlanta manual central offices. In addition to handling local calls, these switchboards had Long Distance operator positions that handled the long distance traffic for the smaller towns and communities nearby.

Long Distance facilities were mostly owned and operated by AT&T, although there were a few independent companies that had their own toll switchboards.

looking for an old map (1960-1977) of independent telephone companies in Georgia

Independent telephone companies in the U.S. tended to favor dial service earlier than did the Bell System. So many places served by these companies probably had dial service sooner than places served by Southern Bell. However, Augusta was the site of the very first Bell System Step-by-Step office.

Around 1930, Southern Bell started to install step-by-step dial offices in many of the smaller communities with less than 1000 telephone lines. These were called Community Dial Offices (CDOs) and were prepackaged switching machines that did not require a full time maintenance staff and could run unattended. These customers would have been able to dial within their own community only. All other calls would have gone to an operator at the long distance switchboard in a nearby larger town.

Starting in the late 1940s, some of the larger Southern Bell served towns were converted from manual service to dial, using No. 1 Step-by-Step, which is the same type as installed in the Atlanta in-town step-by-step offices. This included Gainesville, Athens, Columbus, Rome, La Grange, Macon, Savannah, and Americus. By 1960, the smallest and largest towns had dial service. Some of the medium sized towns still had manual service.

Places like Valdosta, Thomasville, Waycross and Brunswick probably remained manual until around 1964 when they received No. 5 Crossbar equipment to replace their manual service. You could say that they were rewarded for their patience by receiving more modern equipment, including Touch Tone dialing in the late 60s.

Independent Telephone Company Equipment

Southern Bell, being part of the Bell System, purchased all of their switching equipment from the Western Electric Company. Independent companies, at least in Georgia, did not buy equipment from Western Electric.

Several manufacturers made step-by-step equipment that was almost identical to Western Electric. In fact, the Automatic Electric Company held the original patent on this equipment and Western Electric licensed it from them in the 1920s.

There was another type of equipment that worked exactly like step-by-step but was mechanically completely different. It was made by Stromberg Carlson Company and was called X-Y. The X-Y system was very popular in small community dial offices owned by the independent telephone companies.

Aside from step-by-step and X-Y, there were some crossbar and “All Relay” systems made by North Electric Company. The crossbar systems were NX-1 and NX-2. All Relay systems were CX-100 and CX-1000.

Like the Bell switching systems, the crossbar systems were capable of more sophisticated routing and charging of calls than the step-by-step and All Relay systems.

In some places, an add-on system of register-senders was added to step-by-step offices to give them the more routing capabilities. These were needed more in places where there was a large local calling area. In Georgia, there weren’t any independent telephone companies in large local calling areas that required this capability.

Additions to be made to this page

Sounds, especially things like the Stromberg X-Y and NX-1 sounds
Map of the state with the toll centers (classes 1-4)
The toll center hierarchy with the equipment types

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