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Party lines

November 11, 2013 - Rob Weaver
No, this post isn't about partisanship. The title refers to a type of telephone connection remembers by people of a certain age.

A party line, or multiple party line, was shared by two or more customers using the same circuit of telephone line. This may have been more prevalent in rural communities, but I'm not certain. I can recall a few times during my youth when my friends and I agreed to pick up the handsets at our homes at prearranged times. This was the forerunner of the conference call. We just didn't know it at the time.

There were two drawbacks to the partly line service.

For one, a person had to wait to place a call if the line already was in use by other parties on the line. It was easy to tell when the line was in use — just pick up the handset and listen; if voices were heard conversing, the line was in use. (Occasionally, if the receiver wasn't properly hung up, use of the line could be interrupted until the issue was discovered.)

Another problem with the service might be obvious from the previous description. It was possible to eavesdrop on calls made by others on the party line. Eventually, most connections were replaced by private lines, which could keep calls private.

Or they used to. Now, all sorts of communications -- wireless or wired -- are subject to government snooping. Perhaps it's best just to assume someone is monitoring all your electronic communications.

Just like in the old days. ...


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