GeeKs and WiREheads and MoNKeys, oh my!

Rohit Khare (
Sat, 14 Feb 1998 13:58:25 -0800

[Tom, David: FoRK lives at ]

So, through some convoluted sequence of events, I found out another cool
net resource run by, of all people, a FoRKer. Imagine that :-) is a pure-bits forum, no social discussion. Nucleated
around a crew of umich geeks led by Dug Song. I was browsing the archives,
and there were quite enough new nuggets to warrant subscription.

The charter of geeks is attached at the very end of this message.

For example, dirt (david langhorst, apparently a partner-in-crime) mentioned

This guy's a strung-out engineer and it shows in his writing, but it's a
pretty good overview of radio telephone, specifically the north american
cellular system. He also talks a little about TDMA and CDMA:

And lo, geek Tom Farley is -- TONS of fascinating telephone system topics.
Not as hard-core as the old "guide to operations of the Bell Telephone
System", but a good primer nonetheless. I re-commend the URL above.

But wait, there's more! Tom publishes Private Line, a phreak zine. I
checked out an electronically archived copy at

and found:

[Telecom industry guy giving a talk on prepaid phone cards.
I think he *does* mean unused, as in those 5-10minute freebie
promo cards -- RK]

My question, by way of Rick's comments, is how many of the
250 to 500 million cards issued in the United States in 1995 will
actually be used? I don't know if you realize it but something on
the order of 85% to 90% of all debit cards issued are not going
to be used. [This is very high. I think he means that the card
will not be used up completely] A statement was made in December
at a conference I was at in Houston that less than 3% of the
population currently knows anything about what a debit card really

[Wow -- this will be a favorite statistic of mine, right up there with the
quarter-million N.Am. gas stations... RK]


-- Payphone Trivia Courtesy of
New York Newsday, Michael
Moss, Raymond James and Asso
ciates, Industry Analysts, John
Richard Associates and private
line magazine!--
(New York Newsday, Sunday, May
1 4, 1 995)

Number of payphones in the United
States: 2 million
Number of payphones in New York State
owned by NYNEX: 160,000
Number of payphones in New York State
owned by others: 40,000
Commission paid to site owner: Up to 50
percent of gross revenue
Money a pay phone can hold: $150 in
quarters, $250 in dimes
Cost to buy a payphone: $935 to $1,295
Average monthly income of payphone:
Portion of payphone income from coins:

Top Five Payphone Locations Nationwide:

Bars: 131,000
Grocery Stores: 116,000
Hotels and Motels: 80,000
Colleges: 60,000
Prisons: 50,000

[RK: approx # of central offices, ~9000, other switches, ~10000. Almost
O(McDonalds), less than O(Post Offices). Munchnet, indeed... BigMac and
bandwidth to go, please...]


Old Time Telephones is a wonderful book about
telephones for collectors, repair people and just about
anyone who wonders how telephones work. You'll find
everything from the earliest history of telephony to a lengthy
discussion of modern touch tone phone circuitry. It's divided
into four parts. The first discusses the development of
components. It includes chapters on early developments and
the Bell patent, receivers, induction coils, magnetos, ringers,
switches and dials. The other major parts of the book are Telephone
Instruments, Electrical Circuits, and Restoration and Repair.
Each of these parts are as well detailed as the first. There's a
good appendix that describes basic electrical principals
(Myer holds a Ph.D. in physics), an excellent bibli ography and
a well done index.

Myer's approach is comprehensive. He comments, for example,
on a component's function as well as its evolution. Let me illustrate
this point. In the first part he explains that varistors protect a telephone
receiver from elec trical distrubances and that they reduce clicking
noises on the line that you might hear otherwise. He then writes in
a later chapter that, "Unfortunately for Western Electric, the No. 44
varistor could only be successfully made with copper oxide from a
mine in the Chilean Andes, and that ore was being rap idly depleted
(Michal 1960). Consequently, the Bell Laboratories developed a new
low voltage varistor out of silicon." Your editor approves of esoterica!
haven't seen this kind of detail since Fagen edited A History of
Engineering and Science in the Bell System: The Early Years.
I use this book for reference and for browsing. It keeps things straight.
Dozens of models, makes and manufacturers are described or mentioned.
ITT, Kellogg, Stromberg-Carlson, A.E. and Western Electric all made
different products at different times and this book does a great job
of sorting most of them out. It's a little light on Automatic Electric
and foreign makes like Ericsson are generally not treated but what do
you want? The 290 pages of details that it does have will make any
telephone enthusiast happy. Myer says that it took him more than five
years to write this book and I believe it. Here's a nice paragraph
from his book to end this review:

"On January 1, 1984, the Western Electric Company, then older than
the telephone itself, ceased to exist (Hochheiser 1991, 143). On that
day of court ordered divestiture, the Bell System was broken into
seven regional operating companies (the Baby Bells) and a more compact
AT&T. AT&T retained the long-distance part of the business, its
venerable research organization (Bell Laboratories), and its
manufacturing operations (which could no longer have exclusive supply
arrangements with the operating companies). A newly cre ated AT&T
Technologies, Inc. assumed the corporate charter of Western Electric
and continued making 500-type, 2500-type, and Trimline telephones
under the AT&T Technologies label for several years at plants in
Indianapo lis and Shreveport. However, to become competitive in the
market, AT&T shifted residential telephone manufacturing to the Far
East, beginning in Hong Kong in late 1985, Singapore the following
year, and later in Bangkok and elsewhere. Thus ended U.S. production
of rugged electromechanical telephones, and though phones similar to
the 500-type, the 2500-type, the Princess, and the Trimline are still
made to day, they are products of the modern electronics age, rather
than a bygone culture."

Old Time Telephones:Technology, Restoration and Repair

by Ralph O Myer

Published by TAB Books,
a division of McGraw Hill, Inc.,
Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17294-085t

1 -800-822-8158
(717)-794-2103 FAX

ISBN No. 0-07-041817-9
(Paperback) 1995

$19.95 (U.S.)

this is the sporadically-posted geeks list charter.

geeks. of all stripes.

newsworthy bits, and other interesting info. commentary is
fine. commentary on commentary is not (unless you're the moderator).
geeks is NOT: 1. a help list 2. umich-specific 3. computer-specific
4. a local exploder for huge mainstream news stories we'll all read
about anyhow in tomorrow's nyt. keep it tight.

it is, however, fine to bounce msgs (preserving the msg-id header)
from other lists to geeks, when such cross-pollination is appropriate.

where?, with a umich x500 gateway.

whenever. geeks archive:

because it's nice to share.

majordomo (just until i finish hacking smartlist).
you know the commands.