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Free Ringtones And Ringback
I believe this board was able to handle 8 simultaneous calls. The explanation below is preliminary--there is no documentation for the board.
There is a pair of switches in the below part of the board for each pair of cords, grouped vertically in pairs just like the cords, and right beneath them. The front switches have two positions, "ring" and "ringback." The operator pushes forward to ring the party which called (on the "answer" cord), called ringback, or the called party (the "call" cord), called ring. Turning the crank seen at the lower right would cause the magneto inside the switchboard to put "ring voltage" on the desired line.
This board would have been manufactured around 1915, in Lawrenceville, Illinois, just across the state line from Vincennes, IN. It didn't require being on the electric grid, so there are no lights on it. When a subscriber station magneto is cranked, the shutter at its position drops down, indicating a desire to place a call.
The operator would pull the back cord of a pair (the "answer" cord) and plug it into the proper socket for that subscriber, simultaneously pushing forward on the talk lever for that cord. At that point the familiar "Number please" request for call instructions was issued.
The next step would have the front cord of the pair (the "call" cord) pled into the socket for the called party, and the operator would turn the magneto crank with the front switch in the back ("ring") position, to signal the remote station. Then the operator would listen for the called station to answer, and then pull back the listen key for that line pair, disconnecting the operator's voice circuit from those of the connected parties.
Protocol required that when the call was over, one of the two parties should "ring off," which would cause one of the shutters on the bottom two rows, called "call off" drops, to signal that the call was over. The operator would then pull the plugs to end the connection.
Note this is before the days of the dial.
I learned on 18 April that this unit is a "local battery" type of board. The on-board magneto was used to ring subscribers, and the subscribers' magnetos would provide the power for the call drops.
But the talk circuitry was expected to be supplied locally to each instrument, and separately at the switchboard. Back then it was via battery, in the early days expensive and dangerous wet cells. It looks like a simple adjustable-voltage DC power supply will work to safely provide the needed service.
This board is posed in the same spot where an almost identical board once served the Medaryville Telephone Company. Another picture in my photostream shows a woman named Ailsie Daughtee Hansell sitting at the console in this same room about 1915.
Finally I have a camera that can show their faces!
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