Saturday, March 16, 2013

If you would like to hear these instructions again....

Sometimes it is the little story that says the most about changes in the economy.  So today just this: AT&T to close 2 Pittsburgh call centers, lay off 200 local workers

So 'only' 200 workers. Realize that the big 'cracker' plant many are focused on will have less than 500 jobs in itself when operating someday down the road. Just for context.

But a bigger point I've brought up before.  What occupation has really seen the biggest loss in the region over the the 30 years?  Some sort of millworker?  I am pretty sure that other than typesetter (once needed around the world) the biggest percentage loss locally goes to telephone operators.



Why so many fewer operators in Pittsburgh?  Not just has the number of operators collapsed in general, but Pittsburgh was once home to one of the major international call centers AT&T once maintained.  So no matter where you were, if you needed help with an overseas call, and that help was much more common in the past, you would likely need help of an operator employed in Pittsburgh.  Most are long since gone.  I presume the news today is more for customer service folks, but still the economics are much the same. Fewer and fewer people needed to keep the wheels running.  Otherwise known as labor force productivity.  True all around, but folks forget how much manpower (usually women of course) it took to place a single call. It was once a huge source of jobs all around.

I was going to post  again one of the greatest videos out there explaining the use of the newfangled rotary dial phones.  Reminds me of a question I've been meaning to ask the crowd. How many rotary dial phones are still in use in Pittsburgh?  I know of one successful small business here that still relies on a sole rotary phone.  Anyone know where I am talking about, or have examples of your own?

Instead here is something 'new' and more appropriate for the season. Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty using the "Picturephone" for the first time. Yes, Pittsburgh on the cutting edge of technology long before President Bush called us 'Knowledge Town'.  Note the proto collaboration tool at around 3:50.






4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mineo's in Squirrel Hill has 2 rotary phones on the wall. Of course, those are mostly receivers.…

Saturday, March 16, 2013 1:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The economics of picture phone, driven by the engineering, kind of killed it in Pittsburgh and likely other places. In those pre Judge Green days of "Ma Bell" Bell Telephone had to offer tariffed service for a certain price. In order to install picture phone the outside plant (wires to customers) as well as inside plant (switches and connections in them) had to be completely changed before ANY service could be offered. With no assurance that the people who ordered the service would really use it, absent enough other people with the service (a kind of chicken and egg problem) Bell decided it was too much of an investment with too much risk to go forward. Rumor I heard was a large proportion of the order book in Pittsburgh was from residential customers that were not even up to date in paying their regular phone bills, not exactly the demographic they were looking for.

Monday, March 18, 2013 2:27:00 AM  
Blogger Dean said...

Has anyone actually figured out how much pollution the cracker plant - upwind of the large urban area - will produce, and how that's likely to impact health in the region?

Monday, March 18, 2013 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dean, keep in mind there's already a zinc factory there. It's not like Shell is leveling a wooded area to build a plant. How does the current pollution compare to the proposed cracker? Not sure...but I wouldn't just assume it's a net negative.

Monday, March 18, 2013 12:33:00 PM  

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