The Telephone

As early as 1902 Vassar had a campus telephone system, but outside communication wasn't possible until 1916, when a service line connected Vassar to the New York Telephone Company. Soon there were requests from faculty members and administrators to have telephones installed in offices and houses around campus. After 1916 the campus messenger system was adapted to bring messages between rooms with and without telephones.

The telephone system stayed about the same until 1926 when a more "modern and comprehensive" telephone service was installed providing all academic and business offices, dormitories, and faculty housing on campus with telephone lines. All calls made to the college and from within the college were routed by operators through the Vassar College Switchboard.

Student user and operator, ca.1960

Student user and operator, ca.1960

The next change to the telephone service came thirty years later, in 1956, when Vassar updated its system to a dial service. Telephone users no longer had to tell their desired extension to an operator; they could dial it themselves for a direct connection. However, all incoming and outgoing calls to and from campus still had to pass through the switchboard operators.

In 1973, the campus updated again, creating some direct outside lines to try and relieve pressure on what the Miscellany News called the "antiquated manual switchboard." The manual switchboard was replaced in early 1982 by a completely computerized system. Operators remained in the Message Center in Main Building, mainly to route calls from off campus and to assist with on-campus emergencies. In 2005, a complely automated voice-recognition system called Parlance was installed to direct off campus calls and provide telephone information. Campus operators remain available weekdays during business hours, and emergency calls at other times are routed through the Security Department.


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Sources

Vassar College Special Collections


MPB, 2006