Thirty years ago, on January 1, 1984 my work life took a new turn.
|The original Regional Bell Operating Companies ("Baby Bells") included Ameritech, Bell Atlantic, BellSouth, NYNEX (New England/New York), Pacific Telesis, Southwestern Bell and US West. In 1997 Bell Atlantic acquired NYNEX, and in 2000 acquired GTE and became known as Verizon. I retired in 1998, just after the NYNEX acquisition but pre Verizon.|
I was selected to fill a newly-created job on the Bell Atlantic Headquarters staff in Arlington, VA.
This meant no more commuting from my home in Northern Virginia to the Maryland suburbs, where I had worked on the C&P Telephone Group Headquarters staff since 1977.
No more commuting across the Potomac River via the I-495 Beltway.
No more getting stuck for hours behind wrecks on the Potomac River bridge.
They chose me to be Forecasting Manager in the Capital Management Division because of my experience in all areas of forecasting and ability to communicate with upper management about the results. Forecasts were an important input to the company's capital budget and engineering processes.
I served on a number of inter-Bell company task forces and committees that were redesigning the provisioning, engineering and capital management systems. In the early years after Divestiture the former Bell companies jointly funded and cooperated with one another on a wide variety of infrastructure and standards bodies.
It turns out that January 1, 1984 was the midway point in my telephone company career (1969-98).
I began work in November 1969 as Assistant Manager C&P's Fairfax, VA Business Office. I had just completed my active duty with the US Navy. I retired in August 1998 to begin a new life in Nashville.
The Bell System and its logos evolved over time.
I witnessed a revolution in back-office technology. When I began work, the company was using WW2 electromechanical technology. Typists in the Service Order Bureau used model 28ASR and 35ASR teletypewriters to cut paper tape, which was fed into readers that sent the pulses over dedicated multi-leg hardwire circuits to central offices, traffic centers and the central billing office in Richmond.
As a new employee I was given a tour of our new billing computer in Richmond, which took up a floor of an office building. The computer room was built on an elevated floor, beneath which snaked thousands of wires. The room was cooled to about 60 degrees in order to prevent the computer from overheating. It was an IBM 360 with 16K of RAM. Customer account data was contained in racks of punch cards, which would be rolled down the hall for each day's billing. Toll (long distance) records was captured in each central office by punch machines, which produced rolls of punched paper tape that were picked up each night and taken to the billing center in Richmond. The computer was used to merge the toll records on paper tape with the customer accounts on punchcards to print the bills on line printers, which were torn down, stuffed into envelopes, stamped and mailed. Bill stubs for each account were sent to each business office where they were kept in large tubs beside each Service Representative's desk.
The new guy always gets assignments like running the UGF (Now United Way) campaign. I took it seriously and achieved 100% participation in 1970.
My first big assignment was to design a new business office for our 75-person operation and move the existing operations to the Memco Building at Fairfax Circle over a weekend, without any lapse in customer service. After months of careful preparation, everything went like clockwork, and the first call came in on Monday morning to the new office. I designed pneumatic tube and conveyer belt systems to transport orders to and from various parts of the operation. I performed time and motion studies in order to lay out the office for maximum efficiency. In 1971 an Engineering edict from WW2 was still on the books that forbade company offices from installing Touchtone for employees. The policy was put in place to save precious resources for the war effort but was clearly out of date. I was able to demonstrate the economics of Touchtone by measuring the additional time it took for a Service Representative to dial 7 and 10 digit numbers using a rotary dial compared with a Touchtone set, then calculated how much money Touchtone would save in terms of loaded employee salaries. I took these pictures shortly after the move.
For 18 of my 29 years with the Phone Company I forecasted customer demand. From 1972 to 1977 I was a Local Area Forecaster, estimating future telephone demand for small areas of geography in the Northern Virginia area. My area was inside the Beltway to the DC line, north of Rt. 7 to Loudon County and east of I-95 south to Woodbridge. The engineers needed an estimate of future demand so they could build expansions required to meet future demand in an efficient and timely manner.