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"Changling": Drama in the Context of a Telephone Exchange (1928)


In Changeling, an American historical drama film set in Los Angeles in 1928, the central figure played by Angelina Jolie worked as a supervisor in a telephone exchange, then a manual operation. In the film the operation of the exchange appeared to be accurately depicted. Based on a true story, the drama focussed on police corruption and the covering up of police incompetence in the context of heart-wrenching child abductions and murders. It was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, written by J. Michael Straczynski, and starred Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich. It was introduced in 2008.

"Later exchanges consisted of one to several hundred plug boards staffed by telephone operators. Each operator sat in front of a vertical panel containing banks of ¼-inch tip-ring-sleeve (5-conductor) jacks, each of which was the local termination of a subscriber's telephone line. In front of the jack panel lay a horizontal panel containing two rows of patch cords, each pair connected to a cord circuit. When a calling party lifted the receiver, a signal lamp near the jack would light. The operator would plug one of the cords (the "answering cord") into the subscriber's jack and switch her headset into the circuit to ask, "number please?" Depending upon the answer, the operator might plug the other cord of the pair (the "ringing cord") into the called party's local jack and start the ringing cycle, or plug into a trunk circuit to start what might be a long distance call handled by subsequent operators in another bank of boards or in another building miles away. In 1918, the average time to complete the connection for a long-distance call was 15 minutes. In the ringdown method, the originating operator called another intermediate operator who would call the called subscriber, or passed it on to another intermediate operator. This chain of intermediate operators could complete the call only if intermediate trunk lines were available between all the centers at the same time. In 1943 when military calls had priority, a cross-country US call might take as long as 2 hours to request and schedule in cities that used manual switchboards for toll calls" (Wikipedia article on Telephone exchange, accessed 04-26-2009).

(This entry was last revised on 04-30-2014.)

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