Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, June 10, 2021

Among the auction items on the block at Christie’s next week is a surviving copy of a November 1878 directory for the world’s first commercial telephone system, in Connecticut.

It provides a peek at how the earliest of mass-media devices got off the ground:

The New Haven switchboard opened in January 1878, only two years after Alexander Graham Bell, in nearby Boston, spoke the immortal words “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” It was the first commercial system that allowed many customers to connect with one another, for $22 a year, payable in advance.

The first directory consisted of a single sheet listing the names of 50 subscribers, according to lore. By November, the network had grown to 391 subscribers, identified by name and address — phone numbers did not yet exist. And the phone book, although skimpy, had already taken the form in which it would become the fat doorstop of today, with advertisements and listings of businesses in the back — 22 physicians and 22 carriage manufacturers, among others.

Those 22 bucks back then were roughly equivalent to $473 in today’s money, which pretty much made it a luxury item. Worse, despite the pre-payment, it wasn’t even an all-you-can-eat service:

Customers were limited to three minutes a call and no more than two calls an hour without permission from the central office.

Pretty tight bandwith. I’m betting most users routinely violated these limits.

Probably the amazing part is the extended history. While building a telecom network with 19th-Century technology was no mean feat, the fact was that it didn’t advance a great deal in subsequent decades. Yes, phone numbers came into use by early the next century, enabling direct-dial between parties. But in rural and semi-rural areas, this didn’t happen until as late as the 1950s — they still had to pick up and ask the operator to make the connection. And long-distance calls were still subject to exorbitant fees and procedures until the end of the 20th Century. Not to mention how long it took for other features like call waiting, caller ID, multiple lines, wireless, etc. that we now take for granted.

I guess it all had to start somewhere.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/10/2021 05:45:21 PM
Category: History, Tech
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New York is still in the midst of a heatwave that’s flirting with 100-degree temperatures. It should break by tomorrow and start heading toward the tolerable 80-degree ranges.

When it’s this hot, the mind-boggling lack of modern cooling systems in most buildings hits home.

[Brooklyn-based] Starrett City’s woes stem from the fact that it uses the same piping system for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.

The heat is turned off every year on May 31 and it takes a couple of weeks to switch over to air conditioning. “We’re dealing with Mother Nature and the needs of our residents,” said Devorah Fong, a spokeswoman for the complex.

I understand that a lot of City structures are pre-war and can’t be feasibly retrofitted with updated climate-control units. But come on! Why on earth do those pipes need two weeks of adjustment? Are they “cooling down” somehow? I bet the management simply doesn’t want to pay for any more days of A/C than it has to under its contract.

It’s not just residential sites that have to put up with this. I’ve been to more than a few office buildings that are either sweltering or chilly in April-May, depending on when Spring starts shifting into Summer that year. From what I’ve gathered, landlords set a specific contractual calendar date (like that May 31st date referenced above) for when they must cut off the heat and turn on the A/C, and they’ll stubbornly stick to that regardless of what the thermometer says. Given the unpredictability of weather patterns due to global warming nowadays, that leads to a few days of discomfort in the workplace.

I simply don’t get it. Are thermostats illegal in NYC? Can’t variable climate-control costs be built into rents? It’s the 21st Century already.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/10/2021 05:35:31 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Weather
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