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ThoughtPhreaker

Seattle Museum of Communications

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Here's a short recording from the electromechanical switches at the Seattle Museum of Communications. In retrospect, I could've done a way better job at this; as you might pick up from what I chose to call, I was a little overwhelmed by all the variety, and couldn't really make up my mind about what to record. It ended up being a little scattered. That being said however, I was using a completely new patch circuit to make these recordings; it was the second time I'd ever used it, and certainly the first time I'd ever stuck my recorder on an electromechanical switch. This is the one thing I did account for; usually when I record stuff, loud clicks, like a battery drop are extremely loud - enough so that it'll cause clipping unless you set your levels really, really low. Normally this isn't a big issue since that's basically the only click you'll ever get locally from the modern network. That's something I really didn't want on this recording though, so I added a couple of DC filtering caps and current limiting diodes. Thanks to that, I got a far cleaner recording of a lot of things than I probably would've otherwise.

 

So one thing you'll probably notice right away is I don't have any (interesting) recordings of the panel switch. The reason for that is simple: a lot of the phones in the museum are from the period the switch was made. For example, you have lots of candlestick-era phones on the Panel, 302 sets on the Crossbar 1 and so forth. This is a great aesthetic choice, but unfortunately, it also means not only are there no modular jacks, a lot of these phones don't have varistors in the earpieces either. This is the thing in the earpiece that makes really loud, sudden noises (like a battery drop or a cut-through click) stick to a reasonable volume. When they're not on a phone, I can't stress enough that you do *not* want your ear near it when something clicks. Needless to say, I felt bad - the panel switch is the pride and joy of some of the volunteers, but there wasn't anything I could use to call from it.

 

Finally, I'm flashing everything by hand here. This is because the best place to record was from a 1A2 key phone with lines from all the different switches in the museum (except the panel), but for whatever reason, the voltage dipped too low by the time it hit the DTMF IC to power it. For that reason, well, I don't dial a lot of numbers with zeroes in them. This is probably just as well for the step switch; it has tone to pulse converters, but they cut back too late to let you hear the cut-in noises.

 

That being said, if you ever go, it's really easy to underestimate the step switch in a big room filled with some seriously incredible switching equipment. But don't. If you familiarize yourself with all the noises they make when they cut in and such from the Evan Doorbell recordings, it becomes clear that everything is laid out nice and neatly on the switch like an open FTP directory or a PBX; not a whole lot of things can be hidden. Also, much like in the recordings, a short flash can reset a trunk instead of hang up on a call.

 

Anyway, enough crap. Here's a list of calls on the recording:

 

Call 1: Crossbar 5 - 844-1111 (time, on panel)
Call 2: Step - 844-1111 (time, on panel)
Call 3: Crossbar 1 - 232-0027 (line on Crossbar 5)
Call 4: Crossbar 1 - 232-8811 (vacant number on Crossbar 5)
Call 5: Crossbar 1 - Permanent signal trunk, resets back to dialtone
Call 6: Crossbar 5 - 231-1111 (vacant code; crybaby tone)
Call 7: Step - 232-9911 (3-slot payphone on crossbar 5. I answer and screw around for a bit. Notice after I hang up, the trunk never releases)
Call 8: CX-100 - 9 (it ignores this)
Call 9: CX-100 - 1,1 (it ignores this too)
Call 10: CX-100 - 0 (the switch tries to pick up a line from the crossbar 1, but it was disconnected. This was fixed later, but I never recorded it)
Call 11: Step - 7,845-2 (the seven level of the first selector is vacant. The step drops me back to dialtone, I dial 845-2 and get a reorder from it)
Call 12: Step - 1-22 (the 1 is absorbed on the first selector. Notice the dialtone comes back under the pulses of the next digit. The next 2 gets a reorder)
Call 13: Step - 1-231-11 (the first 1 is absorbed like before. I have some trouble with the button messing around with the sound. After 23, the step cuts into a trunk to presumably the crossbar 5, and it makes a strange sound. After the next few digits, I abandon the call; 231 is vacant and I misdialed.
Call 14: Crossbar 5 - 311 (it waits for me to finish before deciding I belong on the crybaby. It wasn't working when I made this)
Call 15: Crossbar 5 - 232-9314 (intraoffice call to a ringing number. This was right before everyone left; normally, intra-office sounds as great as all the rest. Chronomex turns off all the switches after the second ring)

 

museumcalls.flac

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I love the CX-100 there.  Need to visit again.

 

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I need to visit there again as well. Glad you were able to make recordings of the switch sounds. :)

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I've been planning on visiting for years. They have odd hours, I believe.

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I was planning on visiting for about 10 years.  I kept waiting for a "good opportunity" to go.  Finally I just realized a "good opportunity" was probably never going to come.  So I just booked plane tickets and went.  Don't put it off for so long like I did.  The museum could burn down for all we know (although I hope that never happens!).  Get there right when they open and stay all day.  You'll be glad you did :) 

 

On a related note, Thoughtphreaker, we should try to go to the museum again sometime :lol:

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Jman - Glad you went. I took the opportunity in 2005 when my brother who lives in Tacoma got remarried. Of course nobody but me wanted to visit. So glad I went - and I want to go back!

 

Next time I'm in the PNW I'll make it an effort to go! :)

 

 

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