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From: (Robert S. Helfman)
Subject: Re: How Bell Labs Selects Ringers
Organization: The Aerospace Corporation, El Segundo, CA
Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1992 17:16:10 GMT

In article <>
(Colin Plumb) writes:

> In article <>
> (Julian Macassey) writes:

>>	I still believe that anyone has yet to design and build a
>> better instrument than the standard 2500 set. Certainly no one has
>> built a more rugged phone -- explosion proof mine phones excepted.

I have a story which I'm sure will amuse someone out there, a perfect
testimony to the endurance of older Bell System hardware and our
reliance on it.

In 1968 I spent two months in Germany, where I had expected to stay a
year working but between the German bureaucracy, the German weather,
and (only occasionally) the Germans, my culture-shock talked me into
going home prematurely.

I had gone to the Bundespost office in Freiburg to place a call to
Rotterdam to arrange for shipping my VW back to the states. The
classic German postal clerk took my money after writing in small
chicken-scratches in his big log book. I waited about 40 minutes,
fretting at the apparent sloth of the German telephone system and its
attendants.  Finally, he waved me to one of the 'kabine' - small,
phone-booth-sized closets along the wall, each with a glass door and a
small wall-mounted phone, with no seat. I went in to the booth, picked
up the phone, and discovered that the schlemiel has dialed the wrong

What do you do in America when the payphone steals your money and
you're irritated? Knowing full well that the phone is indestructible,
you slam down the receiver and stalk off fuming! Well, that's what I
did to the little German phone on the wall. It DISINTEGRATED in a
shower of tiny plastic and metal parts, all over the floor of the

Standing there in shock, with the handset in my hand and nothing on
the wall into which to put it, I gathered my wits about me, laid the
handset down on the floor of the booth, then calmly (I don't know how
I did it -- I'm not known for being calm) stepped out of the booth,
walked out of the post office, got in my VW and headed straight for
the Dutch border. Racing through my mind were visions of being
prosecuted for destruction of state property (something on which I'm
sure the Germans -- at least in 1968 -- would not have looked kindly.)
Thoughts of Auschwitz and other garden spots made their appearances.

When I went to Deutschland in 1985 on a business trip, I half expected
to show my passport in Frankfurt and be hustled away in irons.
Actually, the German customs/border folks were so casual that they
never even asked for a passport -- my American passport never came out
of my pocket except at exchange banks and hotels.

[PAT, I know this is long, but it still makes me laugh to think about

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