Friday, January 9, 2009

Watching TV and Car Phones a look back.

I had a bright idea of as I was sitting aropund watching a program on the History Channel, I had a weird desire to share some old stories of technology from the past that many of you don't have the slightest idea of what technology was only 30 years ago.
I was thinking about all the people that only think that their pocket sized cell phone has been around for ages.

Not so.

I actually started my business in San Francisco in 1969 selling the GE DTO3 mobile telephone as pictured on the left.

Yep, that was a mobile phone. It was not direct dial. California only got direct dial in most of the state in the mid to late 70's.

This GE unit sold installed for about 2800 dollars.
Just think about how expensive that was in 1970 dollars.
The big unit sat in the trunk of the car, and had electron tubes. I doubt that hardly anyone ones what tubes are nowadays.
The unit had a maximum of 5 channels and consumed about 7 amps of power on standby and about 20 amps while transmitting.
Having 5 channels was interesting. GE and Motorola only came out with 11 channel units a few years later.
Here's how it worked. San Francisco had 3 yep that THREE channels on which you could place a phone call on. So in all of SF only 3 people could be using a car phone at one time. The channels where identified as JL, YL, and YJ. The process was that you would pick up the handset and monitor the channel, if you didn't hear any conversations you would press the transmit button on the handset and in about 10 seconds an operator would answer as " San Francisco Mobile Operator" You would then tell her your phone number, mine was YJ 34704 and then tell her the number you wanted to be connected to and she would call that number and connected you.
This system was quite interesting since you could actually listen into on going phone calls, from people that a lot of the time "forgot" that the line was able to be monitored by anyone.
During boring times, you could get quite a lot of interesting phone calls to amuse you. Naturally it was against FCC law to repeat or divulge anything you hear on the channel..........right!

Oakland had 3 channels also, they were JR, YR and YK. So if the 2 SF channels were busy and your set had the Oakland channels in them you could use those channels also. Imagine having 6 channels on which to place phone call in San Francisco and Oakland.
San Jose had 3 channels, Vallejo had 1 and Novato had 1. That made up the 11 channel VHF mobile telephone system that was operation from about 1955 to 1985.

Calls were 80 cents for the first 3 minutes(each minute) then to discourage long winded calls, it jumped up to $ 1.05 for the air time after that.
Needless to say, my monthly phone bill was running between $150 to 200 dollars a month ( in 1965 dollars).
In the 60's I was a news photographer and cameraman in San Francisco, working the night shifts, from 8 pm to 4 in the morning. Part of my nightly routine was calling various places to inquire if any newsworthy stuff was happening.
The other night crews would all tip each other if something was happening, but only after they were well under way to be their first.

More on part 2.

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About Me

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From TV News to owning radio communications business, seen technology grow and change the way we live. Hobbies are still some photography and reading, satellite pickup. Did catering and cooking at wineries, taught cooking classes and culinary related ventures. Do a few regional cooking classes down here at my house from time to time, in between visiting and living in this beautiful country. Some tech consulting and lots of opinionated chatter.