Old fashioned switchboard in an old military telephone exchange – hidden in the basement of an abandoned country house in the UK (more in comments)

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I used to operate a plug and cord switchboard. I was a maestro on it and people were in awe of me.

An incoming call lights up a hole. You plug a cord in and flick a switch forward to answer it. The person tells you who they want to talk to. You plug a separate cord into the person’s extension and flick a second switch to talk to them and tell them that you’re putting a call through. You flick both switches and the parties are connected. When the call ends it buzzes and you pull out both cords and flick both switches back to neutral. It’s easy to surreptitiously listen in to phone-calls without being detected.

A full board with a number of connected calls looks like a complete disaster area with cords plugged in all over the place in various positions and 2 banks of switches variously flicked to either forward, backward or neutral. The board constantly lights up as calls begin or end.

There is no way that you can intuit how the thing works. You have to learn how it works the hard way. I’m sure that operating one of these things efficiently is more complicated than flying a plane.

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