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The History of Telephone Operators and the Modern Digital Call Center

The History of Telephone Operators and the Modern Digital Call Center

What do you call the hardworking professionals that answer millions upon millions of calls each year? We go by so many names and since our services have such a broad range, we are equivalent to combining several employees into one job description. Whatever you call us – operators, customer service reps, telephone agents or virtual receptionists – we are a part of communication history.

In this special article, we focus on the important dates and people involved in developing telephone communications into the modern digital call center we have today.

The History of the Telephone Operator and the Digital Call Center   

It All Started in 1876

Alexander Graham Bell is known as the father and inventor of the telephone. The History Channelshares, “The Scottish-born American scientist best known as the inventor of the telephone, worked at a school for the deaf while attempting to invent a machine that would transmit sound by electricity.” In 1876, Bell patented his invention and the telephone was officially born.

In 1878 the Telephone Operator Was Created

The world’s first telephone operator, George Willard Croy, started the occupation of telephone operator and dispatcher. He was hired by the Boston Telephone Dispatch company, a company who was owned in part by Alexander Graham Bell.

Hiring managers in the past looked towards telegraphy operators as a pool of talent for the new occupation. Telegraph operators or telegraphists, “used the morse code in order to communicate by land or radio lines.”

Telegraphy was most known as a male-only job but live telephone conversations introduced women into the role very quickly. Just nine months after employing male telephone operators, the Boston Telephone Dispatch company hired a woman, “because the attitude and behavior of the teenage boys previously employed as operators was unacceptable.”

Alexander Graham Bell hired Emma Nutt on September 1, 1878 to bring a more courteous and compassionate role to that of a telephone operator. Read more about the world’s first woman telephone operator in Time’s Article, “The Woman Who Made History by Answering the Phone.”

A Telephone Newspaper Preceded the Radio

Tivadar Puskas, a Hungarian inventor, also became one of the telephone’s pioneers in American history. The Hungarian living in America was working for Thomas Edison who stated, “Tivadar Puskas was the first person to suggest the idea of a telephone exchange.”

Jumping to 1892, Puskas patented his invention and idea of The Telefon Hírmondó. In a Thomis Denison article from 1902, “The Telephone Newspaper,” we get to see just how special the concept of receiving news over a telephone receiver was. 

“For a quarter of a century one of the favorite dreams of the modern prophets has pictured the home equipped with apparatus by means of which one can hear concerts or listen to the latest news, while sitting comfortably by his own fireside. This dream is a fact to-day in Budapest. Music, telegraphic news “hot” from the wires, literary criticism, stock quotations, reports of the Reichsrath, — the whole flood of matter that fills the columns of our newspapers may be had for the mere lifting of a telephone receiver.”

The radio was invented and patented a few years later in 1895 by a young Italian named Gugliemo Marconi.

The First Call Center Established in 1965

The Birmingham Press and Mail located in the UK had organized rows of telephone agents to develop the world’s first documentable call center.   

This first call center had machines that would be considered caricature portraits compared to the modern equipment found in a digital call center these days.

1968 Brought the First Emergency Central Office

In Alabama, Bob Gallagher, president of the independent Alabama Telephone Company raced to beat AT&T to the finish line for developing the first 911 operations center. Succeeding in his mission to beat out AT&T, “Gallagher issued a press release announcing that 911 service [was to] begin in Haleyville, Alabama on February 16, 1968.”

The first American emergency dispatchers had their red phones all lined up ready to receive emergency calls.   

The First Documented Cell Phone Call Made in 1973

The Guardian reports, “It was on April 3, 1973 that Motorola employee Martin Cooper made a call in New York on a Motorola DynaTAC – dubbed a ‘brick’ due to its size and weight.” This cell phone was massive and could operate for 35 minutes at a time before needing a staggering 10 hours to recharge!

1995 Introduces Us to the InternetPhone

VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) was introduced and gave callers the option to use the Internet to place telephone calls. A small company called VocalTec established in 1995, “Pioneered the first widely available Internet phone. It was called, quite simply, InternetPhone.”

Dot-Com Entrepreneurs Turned to Telephone Agents in the 90’s

We can all remember the popularity and trends of dot-com mania not too long ago. With all of the websites providing direct and easy access to consumers, telephones were ringing off the hook with purchase orders. “As websites became the central point of contact and sales for an increasing number of companies, call centers were essential in dealing with customer service and technical support.”

The Modern Day Digital Call Center

A Courteous Communications first incorporated our business answering service in 1985 in Orlando, Florida. Our offices are still located in the heart of Orlando and stretch out to other states around the nation. We have lasted for three decades in the technologically advanced industry of telecommunications.

Each year that passes we adopt new and modern equipment into our on-site infrastructure to keep our digital call center the best in our industry.

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