Air, Land and Sea: The Telephone Everywhere, 1970-1990
James L. (Rocky) Johnson
Moving into the era of voice, data and video communications.
James L. “Rocky” Johnson started with Southwestern Associated Telephone Company as an accounting clerk in the general office in 1949 Lubbock, Texas. Ten years later he became the controller of General Telephone Company of Michigan. Johnson returned to the southwest company in 1966 as vice president-controller and treasurer. Three years later he became vice president and controller, GTE Telephone Operations. Johnson was later elected president of the GTE Telephone Operating Group. In 1986 Johnson was elected president and chief operating officer of GTE Corporation.
Mr. Johnson headed GTE’s Telephone Operating unit during a time that saw the telecommunications industry go through historic changes. He guided GTE through the repercussions that resulted from the divestiture of the Baby Bells from AT&T and the deregulation of the telephone industry. In April of 1998, he was appointed GTE’s Chairman and CEO. Mr. Johnson led GTE from the business of voice communications to the new industry of voice, data, and video communications.
Celebrating 100 Years of Changes
The telephone reached its 100th birthday on March 9, 1976. In 100 years the phone had changed dramatically. It went from a heavy black phone in people’s hallway to an instrument that could be used outside, in a car or in the air. Technological changes over the past 100 years were awesome.
Cordless phones became available about 1980. The early models were primitive. The phones had a good range but the sound quality was bad. There was often the problem of neighbors being able to hear each other’s conversations. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) made changes in 1986 by increasing the phone frequency. The higher frequency meant less noise. Callers were also less likely to hear other people’s conversations. By 1990 some cordless phones had a much greater power. These phones were much clearer and had better distance than ever before. Phones now had 100 channels to choose from which meant less crowding. Around 1994 digital cordless phones appeared. A digital phone had increased clarity and was impossible for radio scanners to pick up this frequency to listen to other’s conversations. The next major advancement came in 1998 when the frequency was again increased. The phones provided great clarity and better distance. Users could walk around the block with no noise and with maximum security.
Cellular phones, launched by Motorola in 1977, was an experimental phone system designed to employ both portable and vehicular phones. A GTE Mobilnet subsidiary was organized as the company’s entry into the new “cellular” mobile radio telephone service business.
The term “pager” was first used in 1959 and referred to a Motorola radio communications product, a small radio receiver that delivered a radio message individually to those carrying the pager device. The first pager, as we know them today, was Motorola’s Pageboy I, introduced in 1974. The pager had no display and could not store messages, but it was portable and notified the wearer that a pager message had been sent. By 1980, there were 3.2 million pager users worldwide. By 1990, wide-area paging had been invented and over 22 million pagers were in use. That number shot up to over 61 million in 1994.
The first Airfone call was placed in October 1984. Since that time millions of calls have been placed from the air. The service is available from on most major airlines and serves as the business traveler’s 35,000-foot lifeline.
Phone Mart: Pick Your Phone, Pick Your Color
In November 1973, the pilot program for a Phone Mart was put into place in Irving, Texas. The Phone Mart was designed to be a supermarket of communications services and equipment. The concept was an overnight success. It gave the customers a chance to actually see what telephone options they had, to place orders for the service selected, and to take the telephone instrument home and plug it in.