The Nation at Your Fingertips (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #3 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 6: The Uncharted Landscape CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #965 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This early 1950s film introduced the country to the concept of direct long-distance dialing, by showing how residents of Englewood, New Jersey, the city where the first experimental direct dial program was installed, were able to call across the country without an operator. Like many Bell System films, it's very conscious of the telephone's history and how it changed with the times––we get to see a Victorian couple shouting into an old wall-mounted phone, scurrying young male operators (the first ones were male), and an early female operator wearing a bizarre huge early headset. What's really interesting about this film, though, is the glimpse into the past we get from seeing a currently commonplace technology when it was first being introduced. Bell's automated switching system as described sounds very computer-like, and the description of how it searches for an open pathway to route the call through sounds eerily like how the internet works. An interesting historical relic.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.


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