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Science Technology

The AT&T Archives Post-SBC Merger? 159

Posted by Zonk
from the technological-history dept.
mrfantasy writes "An article in the Newark, NJ Star-Ledge discusses the possible fate of the AT&T Archives, which is a huge, irreplaceable historical repository of most of the advancements of late 19th and 20th century communications. Corporate archives are often casualties of companies when they are subsumed by a parent organization. The archives include such things as long-distance telephone directories from the mid-1890s, containing every long distance subscriber in the country, including Alexander Graham Bell himself; and a microphone from Warren Harding's 1921 inauguration, the first heard by the crowd thanks to AT&T amplification equipment."
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The AT&T Archives Post-SBC Merger?

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  • Corrections (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @10:40PM (#11664602)
    Firstly, it's the "Star Ledger", not the "Star Ledge"; secondly, it's AT&T, not AT&aT. What's with the editors these days?
  • Re:From an 1890 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Space_Soldier (628825) <not4_u@hotmail.com> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @10:45PM (#11664635)
    Speaking of him, didn't the Italians bitch that one of their citizens invented the telephone first, but didn't have money for a patent, while Bell had?

    I found Google Cache Link [64.233.187.104] that says that Congress gave Antonio Meucci credit for inventing the telephone.
  • Re:SBC-AT&T merger? (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:12PM (#11664788)
    Not to mention before the break-up, GTE was the only other phone company other than Bell. Since GTE was swallowed up by a baby bell, all it would take is for the SBC or Veizon to buy up all of the cell phone companies and the remaining Land-Line providers and wala, back to a bell monopoly, but worse.

    Getting back on topic, since SBC now owns AT&T, they unfortunately have every right to trash the archives if they want since they now own them. IMO, SBC should sell it to the higest bidder instead of just throwing it away.
  • Re:From an 1890 (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:14PM (#11664797)
    Alexander Graham Bell's Phone Number: 1

    In reality the first telephones didn't have numbers till 1879. Operators, or Telephone/Hello Girls, memorized the names and physicaly connected two points to make a connection. It was kinda pointless to know a number till the rotory phone which was in use earlier but not on Bell's system till roughly 1919.
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:31PM (#11664893) Homepage
    They didn't seem to give too much of a shit about preserving SNET's history when they bought them up back when I used to work there. Wasn't too bad when they were calling us "SBC/SNET"; that I could live with. But then they dropped it completely...bleh.

    What history? They dropped the name. BFD. Southern New England Telephone co. was basically the first RBOC, but so what?
    Oh yeah, being "first" is a rich and voluminous history; and all that history was destroyed when SBC dropped the SNET from its name locally. [/sarcasm] In the case of AT&T here, were talking physical history (e.g. original antique phone books). Company names are (at best) just tradition.

  • by eyeball (17206) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:38PM (#11664935) Journal
    This archive by itself would be a great museum based upon the things in it that the article mentioned. Of course, someone would have to organize the collection and hire staff to maintain the buildings, but it's a shame to see our history not being put to use. Some of the stories and innovations here could serve as inspiration to our kids and current researchers much the same way that the moon landing and Hubble telescope did for some of our generation. If they setup a building with the highlights and charged a modest price for admission, it would be far better than letting these memories go to waste.

    There are a few. BellSouth's Telephone Museum [bellsouthgapioneers.org]. I could swear there's another telco museum in San Francisco.

  • It'd be a shame (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:49PM (#11664990)

    My first summer job in high school was at the Warren AT&T [wired.com] archives. I wound up staying on for 4 years

    The archive is a treasure trove of hardware for sure, but there are an incredible number of technical papers and photographs as well; Bell and Watson's lab notes while developing the phone, research notes on the development of the transistor and the Lab's UNIX [bell-labs.com] flavor and more. David Korn's [kornshell.com] research notes on Ksh development or Arno Penzias [bell-labs.com]' reports of his accidential verification [bell-labs.com] of cosmic background radiation might be of interest to some /. collectors should the whole lot end up on the auction block.

    The place is crazy. It's not just the History of AT&T, it's the Great Library of information technology. Hopefully SBC will see it that way too. Last I heard, they had completed indexing and uncrating over 9 miles of paper case files (researcher's project notes) from the 1890's to 1980's. The number of talented scientists who spent their lives at the Labs helping create the IT infrastructure you're soaking in is astounding. As a research lab supported by a monopoly utility, they had unprecedented resources to explore all kinds of ideas. It's all there. Neat stuff.

    One of my favourite pieces was a 1960's prototype for an operator's uniform. Very Star Trek:TOS. Ohura's uniform in gold lamee. Some Suit thought it might be a good idea to have all the operators (almost entirely female at the time) wear uniforms, and this is what they came up with.

    But I'm waxing philosophic. SBC will save the tech documents at least, to protect the intellectual property they're buying with the hard assets. As for the old phone booths, recording equipment and videophone prototypes, maybe they'll end up in private collections or museums. Either way, hopefully more people will get to see and appreciate them.

  • Re:From an 1890 (Score:5, Informative)

    by earthforce_1 (454968) <earthforce_1 @ y a h o o . c om> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:59PM (#11665045) Journal
    I heard dialing was an invention by a funeral home operator, who was wondering why his business seemed to be getting worse for some reason, and his upstart competitor was doing so well. As it turned out, the wife of his competitor just happened to be the town's telephone switchboard operator.
  • Re:SBC-AT&T merger? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:09AM (#11665099)
    But with Bush hell-bent on destroying anything of historical significance and his tax credits to encourage that, all of it will probably be destroyed.

    I work for Hardee's corporate, and our execs recently went on a history killing spree. I was there about a year ago the day we closed our first franchisee's restaurant so we could write-off the property and sell the equipment as scrap. I saw the first neon sign the company used in 1960 smashed to write-off the value of the sign as a loss. I saw hundreds of pounds of historical pictures, menus, etc., including many from our first one in Greenville, NC,thrown in the trash.

    I've worked here for 35 years, and I'm glad I'm retiring soon. There's just too many repukians working here that follow Bush's lead. Never underestimate the hatred that the Bush crime family has for you.
  • by Bamafan77 (565893) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:10AM (#11665109)
    I'm often amazed by how much history is so much BS, especially the stuff you could supposedly hang your hat on. I mean, every grade school kid KNOWS Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone just like every kid KNOWS Thomas Edison invented the light bulb [coolquiz.com]. I consider myself fairly cynical about things in general, but stuff like this makes me feel like a doe-eyed innocent setting eyes on the world for the first time. ;)
  • Re:SBC-AT&T merger? (Score:3, Informative)

    by SIGBUS (8236) on Monday February 14, 2005 @08:18AM (#11666620) Homepage
    Not to mention before the break-up, GTE was the only other phone company other than Bell.

    Not quite... there were hundreds, if not thousands, of small, independent phone companies, mostly in rural areas. Even today there are still lots of small telcos. Before the AT&T breakup, though, Ma Bell had a stranglehold on long-distance.

  • by IANAAC (692242) on Monday February 14, 2005 @08:36AM (#11666696)
    There were no Tomatoes in Europe, so if people think of pizza as "cheese and tomato with stuff on", which I would argue most people do, then one could see it as having American origins. Although...that is using "American" in its very loosest sense as a continent where tomatoes came from...

    Pizza as it's known today gets its roots from Naples. When tomatoes were brought back from the new world - in the 16th century. It really wasn't perfected until the 17th century. Again in Naples. The only thing America had to do with pizza was that single ingredient.

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