Hush-A-Phone

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pages: 418 words: 128,965

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, Alfred Russel Wallace, Apple II, barriers to entry, British Empire, Burning Man, Cass Sunstein, Clayton Christensen, commoditize, corporate raider, creative destruction, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Howard Rheingold, Hush-A-Phone, informal economy, intermodal, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the telephone, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, John Markoff, Joseph Schumpeter, Menlo Park, open economy, packet switching, PageRank, profit motive, road to serfdom, Robert Bork, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Coase, sexual politics, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Telecommunications Act of 1996, The Chicago School, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the market place, The Wisdom of Crowds, too big to fail, Upton Sinclair, urban planning, zero-sum game

CHAPTER 7 The Foreign Attachment Henry Tuttle was, for much of his life, president of the Hush-A-Phone Corporation, manufacturer of a telephone silencer. Apart from Tuttle, Hush-A-Phone Inc. employed his secretary. The two of them worked alone out of a small office near Union Square in New York City. Hush-A-Phone’s signature product was shaped like a scoop, and it fit around the speaking end of a receiver, so that no one could hear what the user was saying on the telephone. The company motto emblazoned on its letterhead stated the promise succinctly: “Makes your phone private as a booth.”1 Advertisements for the cup ran frequently, usually in classified sections. This one from the October 14, 1940, edition of The New York Times is typical: PHONE TALK ANNOYS? HUSH-A-PHONE PREVENTS. DEMONSTRATION EITHER TYPE PHONE. HUSH-A-PHONE CORP., CHELSEA, 3–7202. If the Hush-A-Phone never became a household necessity, Tuttle did a decent business, and by 1950 he would claim to have sold 125,000 units.

., CHELSEA, 3–7202. If the Hush-A-Phone never became a household necessity, Tuttle did a decent business, and by 1950 he would claim to have sold 125,000 units. But one day late in the 1940s, Henry Tuttle received alarming news. AT&T had launched a crackdown on the Hush-A-Phone and similar products, like the Jordaphone, a creaky precursor of the modern speakerphone, whose manufacturer had likewise been put on notice. Bell repairmen began warning customers that Hush-A-Phone use was a violation of a federal tariff and that, failing to cease and desist, they risked termination of their telephone service.2 Leo Beranek and the Hush-A-Phone Was AT&T merely blowing smoke? Not at all: the company was referring to a special rule that was part of their covenant with the federal government. It stated: No equipment, apparatus, circuit or device not furnished by the telephone company shall be attached to or connected with the facilities furnished by the telephone company, whether physically, by induction, or otherwise.

It is worth pausing to observe that as Bell’s lawyers squared off against Licklider and Beranek over technology, the world was witnessing, unbeknownst to anyone, even the combatants, the first of many engagements between AT&T and the Internet’s founders—in effect, the Fort Sumter, so to speak, in the epic fight between those later to be called the “Net-heads” (backers of the Internet) and the “Bellheads.” Never mind that it was 1950 and they were arguing over a plastic cup sold in classified ads. To close their case, the Hush-A-Phone team offered dramatic demonstration to rival O.J.’s bloody glove. Tuttle called his secretary and asked her to speak into a telephone receiver, first with, then without the Hush-A-Phone attached. In accordance with Licklider’s findings, the device did indeed alter the acoustics of the telephone transmission, making it sound more “boomy.” Yet, as was evident to all, the speech remained intelligible. The Hush-A-Phone, in other words, indubitably worked. ONE MIND OR MANY? Bell was right about one thing at least: the Hush-A-Phone wasn’t terribly popular, and it showed few signs of catching on. To understand AT&T’s all-out response as more than merely neurotic, then, one must see the device not for what it was but for what it represented: a threat to the system, and by extension to a sanctified method of innovation.


pages: 744 words: 142,748

Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell by Phil Lapsley

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air freight, Apple II, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Bob Noyce, card file, Chance favours the prepared mind, cuban missile crisis, dumpster diving, Hush-A-Phone, index card, Jason Scott: textfiles.com, John Markoff, Menlo Park, popular electronics, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, the new new thing, the scientific method, urban renewal, wikimedia commons

Apparently weren’t exactly 2,600.” 156 the network expanded from there: Author interviews of Acker, Teresi, and Fettgather. 157 The Machine, VERMONT, Z, ZZ, ZZZ, Superphone: For history and recordings of the Machine and other Los Angeles telephone joke lines see “Phone Recordings, Los Angeles Area & Beyond,” at http://www.dialajoke.us/. 158 weren’t allowed to connect: See the Carterfone case discussion in chapter 20. 158 “The national switched telephone network”: John D. deButts quoted in Steve Coll, The Deal of the Century: The Break Up of AT&T (New York: Atheneum, 1986), p. 105. 158–159 Hush-A-Phone: “Phone Company Upheld in Ban on Hush-A-Phone,” New York Times, February 17, 1951, p. 29 <db1018>; “Hush-A-Phone Hits Back at AT&T,” New York Times, March 24, 1951, p. 25 <db1019>; “Phone Device Ban by AT&T Upheld,” New York Times, December 24, 1955 <db1020>, p. 20; “Court Removes Ban Against Phone Device,” New York Times, November 9, 1956, p. 25 <db1021>; and 238 F.2d 266, HUSH-A-PHONE CORPORATION and Harry C. Tuttle, Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES of America and Federal Communications Commission, Respondents, American Telephone and Telegraph Company et al., and United States Independent Telephone Association, Interveners, No. 13175, United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, 99 U.S.

Consider the case of the Hush-A-Phone. This was a product first manufactured in the 1920s by, you guessed it, the Hush-A-Phone Corporation. It was not a sophisticated electrical circuit that connected up to Ma Bell’s fragile network. No, it was a molded rubber cup that fit over the telephone mouthpiece. It allowed you to whisper into your phone and thus gain a little bit of privacy from your house or office mates; you can think of it as the rubber widget equivalent of cupping your hand between your mouth and the telephone to keep others from hearing you. AT&T didn’t like it; tariffs were passed that made it a violation to use a telephone with “any device not furnished by the phone company.” AT&T threatened to disconnect the telephone service of both vendors and users of the Hush-A-Phone for violating these rules.

AT&T threatened to disconnect the telephone service of both vendors and users of the Hush-A-Phone for violating these rules. Hush-A-Phone Corporation complained to the Federal Communications Commission in 1948. In 1951 the FCC decided in favor of the telephone company. Hush-A-Phone objected; briefs were filed. The FCC took the matter “under advisement” for four more years. In late 1955 the communications commission officially sided with AT&T, saying that this sinister rubber widget was “deleterious to the telephone system and injures the service rendered by it” because its use sometimes “results in a loss of voice intelligibility, and also has an adverse affect on voice recognition and naturalness.” Hush-A-Phone filed suit in federal court—and won. The D.C. court of appeals decided in 1956 that the tariff-imposed ban was “unwarranted interference with the telephone subscriber’s right reasonably to use his telephone in ways which are privately beneficial without being publicly detrimental.”


pages: 629 words: 142,393

The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It by Jonathan Zittrain

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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andy Kessler, barriers to entry, book scanning, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, c2.com, call centre, Cass Sunstein, citizen journalism, Clayton Christensen, clean water, commoditize, corporate governance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, game design, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, Hush-A-Phone, illegal immigration, index card, informal economy, Internet Archive, jimmy wales, John Markoff, license plate recognition, loose coupling, mail merge, national security letter, old-boy network, packet switching, peer-to-peer, Post-materialism, post-materialism, pre–internet, price discrimination, profit maximization, Ralph Nader, RFC: Request For Comment, RFID, Richard Stallman, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Bork, Robert X Cringely, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, software patent, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Ted Nelson, Telecommunications Act of 1996, The Nature of the Firm, The Wisdom of Crowds, web application, wikimedia commons, zero-sum game

It found that at least in cases that were not “publicly detrimental”—in other words, where the phone system was not itself harmed—AT&T had to allow customers to make physical additions to their handsets, and manufacturers to produce and distribute those additions. AT&T could have invented the Hush-A-Phone funnel itself. It did not; it took outsiders to begin changing the system, even in small ways. Hush-A-Phone was followed by more sweeping outside innovations. During the 1940s, inventor Tom Carter sold and installed two-way radios for companies with workers out in the field. As his business caught on, he realized how much more helpful it would be to be able to hook up a base station’s radio to a telephone so that faraway executives could be patched in to the front lines. He invented the Carterfone to do just that in 1959 and sold over 3,500 units. AT&T told its customers that they were not allowed to use Carterfones, because these devices hooked up to the network itself, unlike the Hush-A-Phone, which connected only to the telephone handset.

Anti-Discrimination Norms in Communications, 5 J. TELECOMM. & HIGH TECH. L. 15, 31 –35 (2006); see also, e.g., Christopher S. Yoo, Network Neutrality and the Economics of Congestion, 94 GEO. L.J. 1847, 1878—79 (2006); Kevin Werbach, The Federal Computer Commission, 84 N.C. L. REV. 1, 18—22 (2005). 3. See Hush-A-Phone v. United States, 238 F.2d 266 (D.C. Cir. 1956). 4. Id. at 269. 5. See Use of the Carterfone Device in Message Toll Tel. Serv, 13 F.C.C. 2d 420 (1968). The FCC held that there was “no material distinction between a foreign attachment such as the Hush-A-Phone and an interconnection device such as the Carterfone… so long as the interconnection does not adversely affect the telephone company’s operations or the telephone system’s utility for others.” Id. at 423—24. 6. Between 1985 and 1995, the percentage of American homes with answering machines increased from 13 percent to 52 percent.

Cyberlaw scholar Tim Wu and others have pointed out how difficult it was at first to put the telephone network to any new purpose, not for technical reasons, but for ones of legal control—and thus how important early regulatory decisions forcing an opening of the network were to the success of digital networking.2 In early twentieth-century America, AT&T controlled not only the telephone network, but also the devices attached to it. People rented their phones from AT&T, and the company prohibited them from making any modifications to the phones. To be sure, there were no AT&T phone police to see what customers were doing, but AT&T could and did go after the sellers of accessories like the Hush-A-Phone, which was invented in 1921 as a way to have a conversation without others nearby overhearing it.3 It was a huge plastic funnel enveloping the user’s mouth on one end and strapped to the microphone of the handset on the other, muffling the conversation. Over 125,000 units were sold. As the monopoly utility telephone provider, AT&T faced specialized regulation from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).


pages: 494 words: 142,285

The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World by Lawrence Lessig

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AltaVista, Andy Kessler, barriers to entry, business process, Cass Sunstein, commoditize, computer age, creative destruction, dark matter, disintermediation, Donald Davies, Erik Brynjolfsson, George Gilder, Hacker Ethic, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, Howard Rheingold, Hush-A-Phone, HyperCard, hypertext link, Innovator's Dilemma, invention of hypertext, inventory management, invisible hand, Jean Tirole, Jeff Bezos, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Larry Wall, Leonard Kleinrock, linked data, Marc Andreessen, Menlo Park, Network effects, new economy, packet switching, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer model, price mechanism, profit maximization, RAND corporation, rent control, rent-seeking, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Stallman, Richard Thaler, Robert Bork, Ronald Coase, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, smart grid, software patent, spectrum auction, Steve Crocker, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, Telecommunications Act of 1996, The Chicago School, transaction costs, zero-sum game

In 1956, for example, a company built a device called a “Hush-a-Phone.” The Hush-a-Phone was a simple piece of plastic that attached to the mouthpiece of a telephone. Its design was to block noise in a room so that someone on the other end of the line could better hear what was being said. The device had no connection to the technology of the phone, save the technology of the plastic receiver. All it did was block noise, the way a user might block noise by cupping his hand over the phone.18 When the Hush-a-Phone was released on the market, AT&T objected. This was a “foreign attachment.” Regulations forbade any foreign attachments without AT&T's permission. AT&T had not given Hush-a-Phone any such permission. The FCC agreed with AT&T. Hush-a-Phone was history. Hush-a-Phone is an extreme case.19 The real purpose of the foreign attachments rule was, at least as AT&T saw it, to protect the system from dirty technology.

O'Neill with Paul Baran, Menlo Park, California (March 5, 1990); George Gilder, “Inventing the Internet Again,” Forbes (June 2, 1997), 106 (lengthy article about Baran); Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon, “Casting the Net,” The Sciences (September 1, 1996), 32. 15 American Telephone & Telegraphy Co., Telephone Almanac, foreword (1941). 16 Interview with Paul Baran. 17 Ibid. 18 Peter Huber, Orwell's Revenge: The 1984 Palimpsest (New York: Free Press; Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994), 268-69; Huber, Kellogg, and Thorne, 416. 19 And the decision was reversed by the D.C. circuit. Hush-a-Phone Corp. v. United States, 238 F. 2d 266 (D.C. Cir., 1956). 20 The idea is developed in Kleinrock's dissertation: Leonard Kleinrock, Message Delay in Communication Nets with Storage (1962, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), which was later published in a modified form. See Leonard Kleinrock, Communication Nets: Stochastic Message Flow and Delay (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964).


pages: 675 words: 141,667

Open Standards and the Digital Age: History, Ideology, and Networks (Cambridge Studies in the Emergence of Global Enterprise) by Andrew L. Russell

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barriers to entry, borderless world, Chelsea Manning, computer age, creative destruction, Donald Davies, Edward Snowden, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, Hush-A-Phone, interchangeable parts, invisible hand, John Markoff, Joseph Schumpeter, Leonard Kleinrock, means of production, Menlo Park, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, open economy, packet switching, pre–internet, RAND corporation, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Stallman, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Steve Crocker, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, The Nature of the Firm, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, web of trust

As a result, a flood of entrepreneurial competitors entered niche markets that had been dominated by AT&T and Western Electric.12 Entrepreneurs, who had been attempting to create new products and new markets at the boundaries of the Bell System since its formation, renewed their efforts after the end of World War II. An initial attack on AT&T’s right to control attachments to the telephone network came in 1948, when the Hush-A-Phone Corporation filed a complaint against AT&T to establish the legal right to attach their cuplike device to telephone handsets. Two acoustic scientists – the Boston entrepreneur Leo Beranek and the Harvard researcher J. C. R. Licklider – testified that the Hush-A-Phone would not endanger the technical capabilities of the Bell System.13 Despite the testimony of Beranek, Licklider, and other communications experts, the FCC remained steadfast in its support of AT&T’s end-to-end control over the American communications system. Rulings by the FCC in 1955 and a federal appeals court in 1956 preserved the AT&T’s ability to decide which “foreign attachments” could be permitted, but they added the caveat that such decisions be just, fair, and reasonable.

As FCC decisions protected these firms from the dual threats of AT&T’s dominance and federal regulation, they and dozens of other start-up firms raised capital, created new high-tech products, and struggled to learn the nuances of competing in the shadow of regulatory uncertainty, commercial risk, and rapid technological change. These trends were fueled by time-sharing systems in the academic computing research community, particularly at MIT.19 Subsequent challenges to AT&T’s control over the interfaces of the telephone network followed the same pattern established by the Hush-A-Phone case in the mid-1950s and the Computer Inquiry begun in 1966: an entrepreneur would first introduce a new service or device, then encounter resistance from AT&T, and finally look to the FCC and the courts to challenge AT&T’s authority. Lawsuits from Thomas Carter (filed 1965, decided 1968) and Microwave Communications, Inc. (filed 1967, decided 1969) convinced the FCC to sanction legal competitors to AT&T, albeit in small niche markets.

Congress objected to the modesty of AT&T’s concessions, and used seventeen days of investigative hearings to “ridicule and embarrass” the Antitrust division for its weakness. Steve Coll, The Deal of the Century: The Breakup of AT&T (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986), 59. 13 Both men would later figure in the development of network technologies: Beranek as one namesake of the firm, Bolt Beranek and Newman, that built equipment for the Arpanet; and Licklider as a critic of AT&T and an inspiration for a generation of packet-switching researchers. 14 Hush-A-Phone Corp. v. United States, 238 F.2d 266 (1956); Henck and Strassburg, A Slippery Slope, 32–67. 15 Bernard Strassburg, interview by James Pelkey, Washington, D.C., May 3, 1988, courtesy of James Pelkey. See also Bernard Strassburg, “The Marriage of Computers and Communications – Some Regulatory Implications,” 9 Jurimetrics Journal (September 1968): 12–18; and Henck and Strassburg, A Slippery Slope, 126–142. 16 Strassburg interview.


pages: 352 words: 96,532

Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet by Katie Hafner, Matthew Lyon

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air freight, Bill Duvall, computer age, conceptual framework, Donald Davies, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, fault tolerance, Hush-A-Phone, information retrieval, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Leonard Kleinrock, Marc Andreessen, Menlo Park, natural language processing, packet switching, RAND corporation, RFC: Request For Comment, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, Steve Crocker, Steven Levy

Attachment of foreign (non-Bell) equipment to Bell lines was forbidden on the grounds that foreign devices could damage the entire telephone system. Everything added to the system had to work with existing equipment. In the early 1950s a company began manufacturing a device called a Hush-A-Phone, a plastic mouthpiece cover designed to permit a caller to speak into a telephone without being overheard. AT&T succeeded in having the Federal Communications Commission ban the device after presenting expert witnesses who described how the Hush-A-Phone damaged the telephone system by reducing telephone quality. In another example of AT&T’s zeal, the company sued an undertaker in the Midwest who was giving out free plastic phone-book covers. AT&T argued that a plastic phone-book cover obscured the advertisement on the cover of the Yellow Pages and reduced the value of the paid advertising, revenues that helped reduce the cost of telephone service.

Gore, Al graphics interactive Gulf Oil hacking creative vs. malicious Harvard University IMP Number Nine at Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory at Hawaii, University of Header People header wars Hearn, Tony Heart, Frank background and education of at BBN computer systems engineering of design reviews of family life of IMP proposal work of at Lincoln Laboratory perfectionism and design concerns of personality and work habits of as project manager of IMP design team team work and loyalty of tools and systems management techniques of Heart, Jane Henderson, Austin HERMES Herzfeld, Charles Hewlett-Packard Hill, Albert holographic images Honeywell BBN relations with computers built by, see DDP-516 computer; Honeywell-316 computer Honeywell-316 computer hospitals, computer technology for Hughes Aircraft Hush-A-Phone IBM (International Business Machines Corporation) computers built by IBM cards IBM IBM IBM 7094 computer ideal auditory detection ILLIAC IV computer Illinois, University of Center for Advanced Computation at IMP Guys IMP-Number 0 BBN specifications for debugging of delivery and testing of initial failure of IMP Number One BBN specifications for problems with rewiring and debugging of shipping and delivery of Sigma-7 interface with synchronizer problems with IMP Number Two IMP Number Three IMP Number Four IMP Number Five IMP Number Fifteen IMPs, see Interface Message Processors IMPs Numbers information superhighway Infoworld, intercontinental ballistic missiles Interface Message Processors (IMPs) BBN awarded contract for BBN design and construction of checksum requirements for competitive bids sought for debugging of error-control system of function of handling of I/O traffic by hardware of phasing out of problems and challenges of proposals submitted for prototype of, see IMP Number 0 routing issues and self-sufficiency measures of software requirements of status reports compiled by telephone line transmission with test programs and performance checks for verification of message reception by International Business Machines Corporation see IBM International Conference on Computer Communication (ICCC) International Geophysical Year International Network Working Group (INWG) International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Internet commercial uses of definition of roots of, see ARPANET Internet Engineering Task Force Internet Protocol (IP) Internet Society Interop interstate highway system INWG (International Network Working Group) IP (Internet Protocol) Johnson, Lyndon Johnson, Roy Joint Services Advisory Committee (JSAC) Joy, Bill Justice Department, U.S.


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The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner

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Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, Black Swan, business climate, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, complexity theory, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, Edward Thorp, horn antenna, Hush-A-Phone, information retrieval, invention of the telephone, James Watt: steam engine, Karl Jansky, knowledge economy, Leonard Kleinrock, Metcalfe’s law, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Picturephone, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Telecommunications Act of 1996, traveling salesman, uranium enrichment, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

Friis had been instrumental in work leading to the construction of the microwave long-distance network. 2 Joe Baker, author interview. 3 Peter Temin with Louis Galambos, The Fall of the Bell System: A Study in Prices and Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 10. 4 Steve Coll, The Deal of the Century: The Breakup of AT&T (New York: Atheneum, 1986), p. 59. 5 The post-1956 legal tangles between AT&T, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the FCC are compelling but highly involved; moreover, because those legal tangles were often unrelated (or indirectly related) to the science and engineering of Bell Labs, they are not fully detailed here. Some of the competition to the Bell System dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, to cases involving two independent companies and their devices, Hush-a-Phone and Carterfone. Hush-a-Phone was an attachment to a handset’s mouthpiece that allowed customers to talk or whisper into the phone with more confidentiality; Carterfone was a device that allowed mobile radios to be tied into the landline network. AT&T contended that both could conceivably harm the network, an assertion that was ultimately proven unfounded. Eventually, based on court appeals and FCC decisions, both devices were allowed.