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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @10:46PM (#11664642)
    Although possible, I find it unlikely that SBC would not value AT&T's heritage as much as, and as part of, its own. It is a Bell operating company after all, with many veteran execs from the Bell system of yore. It may even use the AT&T name after the merger.
  • by jacksonyee (590218) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @10:47PM (#11664653) Homepage

    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.

  • Cause to worry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bingo Foo (179380) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @10:48PM (#11664658)
    Doesn't SBC stand for "Slash and Burn Corporation?"

    Seriously, why would anyone think this stuff is in danger? As if SBC wouldn't see it as an asset, part of their "goodwill" portfolio.

  • SBC-AT&T merger? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goon america (536413) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @10:51PM (#11664683) Homepage Journal
    Why should AT&T lose its archives because it's merging with SBC? Before "SBC" became a referent-less corporate initialism, it used to stand for "Southwestern Bell Corporation", a company formed by carving it out of AT&T due to anti-trust litigation. They had always been the same company, just taking a 22-year trial separation.

    (Oh, and how much public time and money was spent splitting up AT&T only to let the pieces gradually merge back together, like the re-heated T1000?)
  • They can't... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MSDos-486 (779223) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:09PM (#11664769)
    because pre-1982 SBC history was AT&T history. Kinda funny how the student became the master
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:12PM (#11664783)
    I second that, kind of: Donate to Archive.org or the Stanford computer archives (Stanford has some technology archives of which I do not know the exact name of). Put it in good hands.
  • FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chowbok (467829) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:59PM (#11665050) Homepage
    There's no story here. The reporter has no reason to think this will happen. Nobody with either company has said the archives will be thrown out. AT&T's former archivist thinks SBC is good about keeping archives. SBC's spokesman says they keep archives. Some professor somewhere says, with no evidence at all, that they'll throw it all away, and that gives a bored reporter a hook to hang a bullshit story on.

    Calm down, they'll keep it or give it to a museum.
  • by smchris (464899) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:10AM (#11665108)

    Phone books are one way to supplement geneology. One of my great-great grandfathers had a home phone in the 1890s.

  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:32AM (#11665381) Journal
    And said museums could also keep 90+ percent of their collections in the back rooms where most people will never see them...
  • Re:From an 1890 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NumberGod (65770) on Monday February 14, 2005 @05:27AM (#11666082)
    Yep, his name was Strowger.

    http://www.seg.co.uk/telecomm/automat1.htm/ [seg.co.uk]

    NG.
  • by rlds (849683) on Monday February 14, 2005 @08:02AM (#11666531)
    Since SBC comes from AT&T's Bell System and there are some achievements that SBC would like to present as their legacy too, SBC will not destroy those archives. Consider that SBC may even assume AT&T's corporate name, in which case that preservation would make even more sense. Yes it's PR, but as SBC and Verizon get bigger and bigger and become a duopoly in communications, having SBC present that legacy as its own is of some business value.
  • by RobNich (85522) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:43AM (#11667299) Homepage
    Edison didn't believe that DC was safer, he knew the situation. In addition to being safer, AC doesn't require a transformer on every block for distribution like DC does. Edison knew that AC was better, but Edison didn't own the patent on it. The rivalry between Edison and Tesla was the real cause of this--Tesla invented and marketed AC, Edison patented a DC distribution system. Edison tried to shape public opinion because he knew that his sytem was both less safe and more expensive. Luckily his tactics didn't work.
  • Re:Dumpster? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Monday February 14, 2005 @11:47AM (#11668656) Journal
    From an archeaological standpoint these things are a link to the past that is tangible and worth preserving for a better understanding of the culture and technology of the times. They should simply be donated to museums or private collections that specialize in that sort of thing.

    What is the big deal?
  • by dillon_rinker (17944) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:40PM (#11670713) Homepage
    Indeed, you ARE a doe-eyed innocent. If you weren't, you'd realize that the history of technology, at least for the last 200 years of American history, is the history of industry, and thus the history of the men who OWNED industry. Alexander Graham Bell OWNED the telephone industry in from its inception in the USA; therefore, he invented the telephone. Likewise for Edison and the electrical appliance industry, and Ford and the automotive industry.

    With regard to Edison - do you REALLY think that he, personally and individually, tested 500 diferent filaments for light bulbs? Or is it more that he paid the money that bought the building and employed the workers who did the testin? Edison invented the lightbulb in the same way that Gore invented the internet; he provided the necessary funding for the men who did the real work. At least with the internet, we know who those men are.

    The Wright brothers are a curious exception. They created the first heavier-than-air machine capable of lifting a man from the ground and returning him to it safely (for a certain value of "safe" - one was killed in a flying accident). They patented their inventions and promptly ceased innovating, choosing rather to sue the socks off of their competitors, who were forced to innovate ahead of the Wright patents. That is why there is no Wright Airlines or Wright Aircraft company today.

    Food for thought.

There is no royal road to geometry. -- Euclid

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