In 1875, Alexander Graham Bell, through experimenting with a method of sending telegraph messages, accidentally discovered the basic mechanics of the telephone. In 1876, he was successful in speaking over the telephone and in August of that same year, the first long distance call, covering a distance of eight miles, was completed by him. Today, there is a vast complex of telephone communication systems, over land and sea, across continents, in industry, and among vehicles of travel, such as airplanes, ships, trucks and cars.
Nevertheless, in the system of telephone communications, the telephone operator plays an important role in telecommunications jobs. Around the clock these individuals aid the public in placing calls, and often the quick action of the telephone operator can save a life, lead to an arrest or a rescue, or be vital in avoiding some type of catastrophe. Automation and technology have now made it possible for telephone customers to dial direct on local and long distance station-to-station calls. But for other calls, such as reverse charge, person-to-person, and credit card calls, the central-office operators provide assistance. They may also help customers who have difficulty in dialing or those in emergency situations. They may also assume the duty of recording the necessary information on long distance calls for customer billing, although now this is usually done automatically by computer. These operators wear a headset that contains both an earphone and a microphone, leaving their hands free to operate the switchboard or, more often now, the computer terminal at which they are seated. They also assist customers and long distance operators by answering inquiries for telephone numbers that are not listed in the most recent directories, that have been changed, or that customers are unable to locate for themselves. These operators usually work seated at the console of a computerized directory.
Meanwhile, Pbx operators work on private branch exchange (pbx) systems for large companies as part of their telecommunications careers. They transfer incoming calls, give information to callers, assist employees in making calls, and record charges for outgoing calls. In small business establishments and in offices with equipment that allows direct inward dialing, these operators sometimes serves as office receptionists, sort mail, greet customers, and perform other general office duties as their job demands and time allows.
Generally, communication center operators work in large airports to answer calls, page travelers, monitor electronic alarm systems, and operate a two-way radio system among far-flung departments. While in a police department, the police district switchboard operators transmit and receive police communications.
Nevertheless, manual dexterity is an aptitude that is an asset to the telephone operator in dealing with his jobs in telecommunications. However, the degree of dexterity needed is about the same as that required for the operation of any type of office equipment. These employees must have a clear voice for speaking, without any heavy accents of speech impediments, as well as good hearing and eyesight. The majority of employers now require that all applicants satisfactorily pass a physical examination, and many firms require the potential employee to perform successfully on pre-employment tests in spelling, arithmetic, and learning ability. Personal qualification should include tact, patience, and a desire to work with people and to be of service to others, a pleasing voice, even disposition, and the ability for good judgment in job performance. Operators must also have legible handwriting and they must be punctual and dependable in job attendance. Of prime importance is emotional stability and a courteous manner in dealing with the public.
Moreover, observing the work ethics of telecommunication jobs, telephone operators are morally and legally bound not to repeat any conversations overheard through the switchboards in their work. The majority of telephone operator jobs have traditionally been filled by women, but in recent years, a significant number of men have become telephone operators. Individuals may enter this occupation by direct application to employing companies and firms. In some cities, telephone offices maintain an employment office, while in other localities, employment interviews are conducted by a chief operator or personnel manager.
Telecommunication employment opportunities may be located by visiting employing firms, by using the services of state or private employment agencies, through newspaper advertisements, or sometimes, through high-school placement offices. The wages paid to telephone operators vary from state to state, from one section of the country to another, and even from city to city. The types of duties performed by the employee also affect the salary earned. For example, those employees who perform clerical or receptionist duties may be paid at different levels from those employees who perform only switchboard operator duties.
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