National Film Unit, 1953
(Woman) Two pounds of butter, a packet of raisins, four pounds of sugar. Let me see now, there's sure to be something else I wanted.
(Man 1) I've tried everything and still she won't go. Yes, I've tried that. It looks like a towing job to me.
(Man 2) Yes, yes, yes, no- (Voices increasingly talking over each other, ending in a cacophony of voices)
(Narrator) The telephone has become so much a part of our modern way of life as to be considered a necessity. There is practically no limit to the places it will reach or the services it will render, and there are times when the telephone is the only means of getting help and rescue. Yet, simple as the telephone is to operate, the making of a call is a very complicated business. Could we but ride an automatic call to its destination this is what would seem to happen.
Now let's examine this more carefully. A telephone is connected to the outside world by two wires. These pairs meet at pole boxes, where they become part of the main cable feeding that area. Main cables are generally run underground. They are the lifelines of the telephone, and everywhere men are busy extending these lifelines in a constant battle to get the telephones in. And as cables do not come in endless lengths they have to be joined. This is a skilled job, where it would not do to be colourblind as each pair of wires is identified by color.
Trenching, the laying of ducts and the laying of cables are all costly undertakings. Especially with materials at their present-day levels. For the purpose of repair and inspection of cables manholes are installed at intervals and it's here the junctions are made into main cables heading to the exchange. At the exchange itself the cables emerge from underground. By this time they've grown to the point where they carry as many as 1,800 pairs and the connecting of these to the exchange mechanism is a job that can only be done by the most highly trained staff.
When you lift your receiver there follows a pause before the dialing tone is heard. In that time certain things happen at the exchange. Lifting the receiver operates a relay which operates line finders which pick up your calling line. When the line finders have located your calling line group selectors start hunting for an idle register. This ensures a line is available when you dial your number. Only then do you get a dialing tone, which is given out by a small motor and is the same as an operator saying "number please".
When a number is dialed it is the register which records the number and controls the setting up of the call through a series of selectors. The operation being complete when the answering subscriber's telephone rings.
This process requires a great deal of equipment. All this equipment costs money. It has to be imported and it has to be installed. This is a major operation requiring trained men and a good deal of time. Also new and modern exchanges have to be built to house this equipment and the more equipment is needed the more exchanges have to be built and these have to be designed to cope with the probability of increase in future requirements and exchange equipment cannot run on its own.
As new exchanges come in skilled people have to be used to keep them running. If a fault is reported by a subscriber the wire chief must have other men ready to track down and repair the trouble. All this is quite apart from the people needed for actual installation. Now this laying on of telephones is not just a battle on one front. The need is not limited to cities and towns. Ours is first and foremost a farming country with settlers widely scattered and often far from the nearest township and - Yes what is it?
(Man) Sorry, but that Mrs Smith down the road was on the line and can that woman talk! Yes, yes, now where were we? Oh yes, telephones. Now it's all very well for you city people to want telephones so that you can talk across the street but what about us farmers out back? What about jacking up a bit of service for us too? We've pretty well had to take care of ourselves so far. Why, I can remember the day when we had to lay our own wires if we wanted any service at all. Mind you, it wasn't all it could be but-
(Narrator) Yes, we can all remember when. For much of the rural telephone service in New Zealand grew out of a need. The need was such that many farmers created their own private party lines into a common area exchange which was usually in a farmhouse. From this there ran a main line into the nearest departmental exchange.
I don't know why I'm using the past tense here because there are still a great many of these lines doing a good job of work. In fact when our friend manages to get through again I mustn't forget to remind him of what's going on right now.
In places like Koiterangi near Hokitika it's all in accordance with the pioneer pattern that has opened up this country in less than a hundred years. To overcome the shortage of manpower farmers in some parts of the Dominion are banding together to supply themselves with the latest in rural telephone service. With the help and advice of post office staff they're erecting poles, stretching wires and helping to install rural automatic exchanges of the kind that are springing up all over the country.
A small hut that could easily be mistaken for a toolshed contains all the equipment needed to supply a rural district with automatic telephone service of the kind most likely to be useful to the farmer. It reduces the number of subscribers on party lines and being automatic the phone goes on ringing until a body has a chance to answer it.
In recent months many new exchanges have gone into operation. Concrete result of the endless effort expended, the time-saving devices adopted, the planning, building, installing, research, training, constructing and all the services needed for people wanting telephones.
Since 1950 more than 75,000 people have acquired telephones. All the resources of a huge organization are being used and the post office staff have reason to feel that at last they're getting somewhere. But there's no getting away from it. It takes time to overtake a constantly mounting demand. Not just in one place but in all the cities, the towns and rural areas of New Zealand. It takes time to transfer names from the waiting list to the phonebook. It all takes time and none of it is being wasted. Although you wouldn't think so to hear some people talk .
(Man) Good morning madam can I help you?
(Woman) Oh yes, I'm Mrs Jones. I'm in the phone book. I just came down to let you know that we're moving into our new house and I want our telephone connected up there.
(Man) Well it depends on whether there is a spare connection in your area. If you could give me your-
(Woman) I thought you'd say that, so I brought it along with me to save time. That's the trouble with you people. You always take so much time.
(Narrator) See what I mean? We have problems.
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