1951: Telephone Industry
Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.
1951: Telephone Industry
The highspots of telephone activity during 1951, the 75th year since the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, were the completion of the first transcontinental microwave radio-relay system, and the inauguration on a trial basis of long-distance dialing by customers. The industry also continued its expansion and improvement program to meet growing defense and civilian needs.
Telephones in Service.
Telephones in service in the United States increased by 2,600,000 during the year to bring the total to 45,600,000, of which 82 per cent were operated by the Bell System. During the year the industry continued its program of converting non-dial telephones to automatic operation. The total number of automatic Bell telephones increased to nearly 29,000,000, over 77 per cent of the total Bell instruments in service. About 72 per cent of all telephones in the United States were dial-operated at the end of 1951.
As of Jan. 1, 1951, the estimated world total of telephones was 74,800,000, 58 per cent of which were in the United States. The United States also led the world in per capita telephone development with 28 instruments per 100 persons, Sweden was second with 24, and Canada third with 21. The world average was 3.1 telephones per 100 persons.
New York City continued to lead the world's cities in the number of telephones, with 3,137,405 instruments at the beginning of the year. Greater London had the second largest total with 1,632,900, and Chicago was third with 1,526,156.
Quickening of the defense program and continued heavy usage by customers combined to set new records for total telephone conversations during 1951. An average of over 175,000,000 local and long-distance calls per day were completed during 1951, an increase of about 5,000,000 per day over 1950. Long-distance calls alone averaged 6,300,000 per day, 100,000 more than in 1950.
Plant and Equipment.
During the year, more than $1,100,000,000 was expended by the industry for expansion and improvement of facilities, increasing the total plant investment to about $12,200,000,000. The total for the Bell System at the end of the year was approximately $11,000,000,000.
The transcontinental microwave system, built at a cost of $40,000,000, utilizes directional antennas to beam telephone and television signals along a cross-country route of 107 relay stations. Other new toll circuits added during the year increased the industry's toll wire network to 28,500,000 mi.
Telephone in Defense.
In addition to supplying communications facilities for defense plants and military installations, the industry during 1951 greatly expanded the telephone network linking the country's air defense radar network. Bell and independent companies also established private-line networks which make it possible to warn key cities, military establishments, and other emergency locations of an impending attack within two minutes.
The first coast-to-coast television program — the opening of the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference — was carried over the transcontinental microwave system on September 4. The new microwave system added 12 television stations in three cities to the existing Bell System network, and other stations added during the year increased the total number of cities with network TV facilities to 46. The total television channel mileage at the end of the year was 24,000.
Dialing of long-distance calls by customers was inaugurated on a trial basis in Englewood, N. J., on November 10. Individual and two-party-line customers in that city can now dial 11,000,000 telephones in cities as far away as San Francisco.
The number of cities to which operators can dial long-distance calls directly also continued to increase during 1951. At the year's end, 1,375 localities could be dialed by operators, with about 38 per cent of all long-distance calls being handled in this manner.
Bell System radiotelephone stations handled a total of almost 900,000 messages to foreign countries and ships on the high seas in 1951, nearly 25 per cent more than in 1950. During the year, telephone service was extended to British West Africa, Guam, and Cyprus, making it possible for telephone users in the United States to reach some 90 countries and territories, or all but about 4 per cent of the total telephones in the world.
Bell System mobile telephone service was available at the end of the year in well over 500 communities. The Bell Telephone Companies were providing general mobile service to more than 10,700 vehicles of all types, which were placing about 330,000 calls a month.
At the end of 1951, there were over 735,000 people employed in the telephone industry, with women making up about 60 per cent of the total. Bell System employees numbered almost 650,000, including those in the Western Electric Company and the Bell Telephone Laboratories. The total Bell System pay roll in 1951 exceeded $2,000,000,000.