Back When The Senate Tried To Ban Dial Telephones

from the a-series-of-tubes dept

With a group of Senators now looking to block various websites the Justice Department deems as "pirate," websites, it's worth taking a look back at how Senators can be rather silly in their rush to ban certain technologies, highlighting why it's generally not a good idea when politicians get involved in technology. The Nieman Journalism Lab points us to the news that, back in 1930, the Senate came close to banning dial telephones (where you dialed them yourself), preferring to have an operator do the connection instead. To the anti-dial Senators, it was seen as inappropriate to do the work of operators themselves. The resolution, which passed, read:
Whereas dial telephones are more difficult to operate than are manual telephones; and Whereas Senators are required, since the installation of dial phones in the Capitol, to perform the duties of telephone operators in order to enjoy the benefits of telephone service; and Whereas dial telephones have failed to expedite telephone service; Therefore be it resolved that the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate is authorized and directed to order the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. to replace with manual phones within 30 days after the adoption of this resolution, all dial telephones in the Senate wing of the United States Capitol and in the Senate office building.
Now, it's true that the resolution only impacted the Senate -- but when another Senator asked why they didn't ban dial phones from all of Washington DC, Senator Carter Glass from Virginia who sponsored the resolution apparently said that "he hoped the phone company would take the hint," and would remove all dial phones.

While the resolution did pass, some younger Senators were apparently upset about it -- as they actually preferred to dial their own numbers, and put forth a resolution to let Senators choose which they wanted -- leading to a "compromise" where those who wanted dial phones could keep them, but those who wanted to have the operator handle the difficulty for them, could do so. As one Senator, Clarence Dill, noted in support of the ban:
In his experience, the dial phone "could not be more awkward than it is. One has to use both hands to dial; he must be in a position where there is good light, day or night, in order to see the number; and if he happens to turn the dial not quite far enough, then he gets a wrong connection."
Is it any wonder that some of us think that it's not a good idea for elected officials to determine the relative merits of technology?
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Filed Under: censorship, history, senators, technology

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  1. identicon
    wzardofodd, 23 Sep 2010 @ 9:05am

    copyright infringement

    ive mixed feelings about this copyright issue. whereas the original creator of any intellectual property should certainly be given protection if he so desires; i feel differently about middle management (remember what col tom parker did to elvis) & heirs claiming ownership of something they had no function in creating. one, the public domain issue should be strengthened. two, example: why should michael jackson collect royalties from beatles tunes (when he was alive, of course)? three, many entities freely shared their content w/their public; finding it a great strategy to "spread the word". (greatful dead, phish, mystery science theater, etc.) also, how does it really work? i purchased disraeli gears by cream on lp back in 1967. i then bought it on cassette, then 8-track, then cd over the years. i contend that i should have the right to download it from whereever because i originally paid the originator for the right to listen to it in 67. also, as a musician i remember the more than silly attempts by bmi-ascap to recover royalties from high school bands covering pop tunes from their clients. they would literally send an agent to a sock-hop to collect $1, or so from a band playing "born to be wild", or somesuch. his salary must have far exceeded the amounts collected. even tom would say thats petty. lol!!!

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