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STARS:Electromechanical Telephone-Switching

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Author: Sheldon Hochheiser


Originally, all telephone calls required the participation of an operator. This began to change when a crude automatic switch, invented by Almon Strowger, was improved into the first practical automatic switch around 1900. The application of Strowger switches, as well as panel, rotary, and crossbar switches, automated the telephone system. Automatic telephone switching was critical in making the telephone the influential mass market technology it became. It was also influential as an early and widespread example of automation of an electromechanical service.


1878 The first manual telephone exchange, in New Haven, Connecticut, opens.
1889 Almon Strowger invents the automatic telephone switch.
1891 Strowger receives US Patent 447918 for his invention.
1891 The Automatic Electric Co. is formed to develop a practical Strowger system.
1892 The first prototype of the Strowger system operates.
1896 Alexander Keith, John Erickson, and Charles Erickson invent the dial telephone.
1896 The first prototype of a dial telephone system operates.
1912 Gotthief A. Betulander invents the first all-relay telephone switch.
1913 John Reynolds invents the crossbar selector.
1916 William Blauvelt develops a telephone numbering plan for large cities.
1921 AT&T introduces the panel switch, designed for use in large cities.
1938 AT&T installs the first #1 crossbar switch in New York City.
1943 AT&T introduces the #4 crossbar switch, designed for long distance calls.
1948 AT&T introduces the #5 crossbar switch, designed for suburban exchanges.
1951 Customer dialing of long distance calls begins in the United States.
1965 AT&T installs the first all-electronic telephone switch.



References of Historical Significance

References for Further Reading

About the Author(s)