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American Telephone & Telegraph: The Art of Telephony, 1916

Switching Styles

The structure of the Bell Company's local agencies changed dramatically in 1878 with the development of the switchboard. Prior to the switchboard, all telephone connections had been "point-to-point," meaning that one telephone line connected only two telephones stationed at two different points in a given city. The invention of the switchboard broadened the number of connections which could be made among local telephone users. The switchboard functioned as a central exchange to which all telephone subscribers in a particular area could connect. With the switchboard acting as the center of local exchanges, any telephone subscriber in the operating area could connect with any other subscriber as long as both were connected to the same switchboard. The switchboard thus facilitated greater amounts of communication on the local (and eventually the national) level.