National Geographic : 1954 Jul
115 National Geographic Photographer John E. Fletcher Television Helps a Bank Depositor Balance Her Checking Account This customer went to the Riggs National Bank in Washington, D. C., with a question about her bank statement. An officer seated her in front of a television screen and phoned the bookkeeping department, in another building a block away. A private television system connects the two buildings. Within minutes the client's deposit slip, in her own handwriting, flashed on the screen and her question was answered. "Here," he said, handing me a telephone. "Try it out. Call San Francisco." "I don't know anybody in San Francisco," I said. "Call the time signal," he said. "Check your wrist watch. First dial 318; that's the San Francisco area code. Then dial the local number. For time, that's RO 7-8900." I dialed 318, RO 7-8900 while Mr. Frylinck took out a stop watch. He pressed it as I dialed the final "0." It had ticked off 12 seconds when I heard the ring in San Francisco; in 14 seconds I heard a voice saying, "The time is 3.12 ... " My watch, I noticed, was exactly three hours and two minutes fast. I made a swift mental calculation and set it back two minutes. "A little quicker than average," said Mr. Frylinck, putting the stop watch away. "It sometimes takes as long as 16 seconds from dial to ring." "Suppose I wanted Chicago instead of San Francisco?" I asked. "You dial exactly the same way, except for Chicago the area code is 312. For Detroit it's 313, for Boston 617. Our green book now lists 14 different area codes. Eventually it will have about 100, covering every part of the United States and Canada." Transcontinental Busy Signal "What happens if a customer dials San Francisco and the line is busy?" I asked. "He gets a busy signal, just as he would on a local call. There's no charge for that, of course, though we hope he'll try again and complete the call." "And if he dials a wrong number?"