Posts Tagged ‘Ma Bell’

New York Telephone Co.

New York Telephone Co.

How many of my readers know who I’m referring to?  There was a time way back when the term Ma Bell was known to us all (well those of us of a certain age)   anyway.  The following  explanation comes from Wikipedia:

“The colloquial term Ma Bell (as in “Mother Bell”) was often used by the general public in the United States to refer to any aspect of this conglomerate, as it held a near complete monopoly over all telephone service in most areas of the country, and is still used by many to refer to any telephone company. Ma Bell is also used to refer to the various female voices behind recordings for the Bell System: “

But what you say does that have to do with the photo in this blog?  What you are looking at is a mechanical pencil with a silver ball on top.  This one is a vintage premium from the New York Telephone Co., which was part of the Bell Telephone system.  I found some more information on the web site, Tele Truth. Below is an except:

from “The Unathorized Bio of the Baby Bells & Info-Scandal” updated December 2001)

“For over 100 years, Ma Bell, sometimes called the “Bell System” sometimes called “AT&T”, controlled almost all telecommunications in the US. Once the largest company in the world with over one million employees, the company consisted of 22 local Bell companies, (including New York Telephone and Ohio Bell), AT&T Long Lines, (the long distance division) as well as Western Electric, (the subsidiary that manufactured telephone equipment) and Bell Labs, one of the premier research organizations.

Then in 1984, because of the monopoly control the company had over phone service, the company was broken-up and the local Bell phone companies were divvied up among seven, artificially created, very large companies called “Regional Bell Operating Companies” (RBOCs, pronounced “R-BOKS”) or sometimes the “Regional Bell Holding Companies” (RHC) and sometimes “The Baby Bells”.

Please note: AT&T no longer has any ownership relationship with the Bell companies. However, in our 1993 consumer survey, we found that about 1/4 of the population thought that AT&T still owned the Bell companies. Meanwhile 5% still call the companies “Ma Bell”, or the “Bell Company”.

Each company controls specific geographic regions of the US. For example, Ameritech controlled a five-state region: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

This diagram gives the original Baby Bells, the phone company(s) it controlled, and the state(s).

Today, because of numerous mergers, there are only 4 Bells:
  • BellSouthSBC Communications, which owns Southwestern Bell, Pacific Bell, Ameritech, SNET
  • Verizon, which owns Bell Atlantic, NYNEX, and GTE
  • Qwest, which now owns US West

However, there is mass confusion on the part of the customers, not only because of these mergers, but also because of the various name changes.”

Now that you have the deep background on how Bell telephone which once monopolized the communications network was dismantled by the government.  If they had foreseen the future with so many household NOT using hard line phone service, perhaps Ma Bell would have self-destructed anyway.

But here’s the real purpose of Throwback Thursday – who remembers rotary phones?  The ball tip of the pencil was meant to save your manicure as you dialed a number.  Cute huh?

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