Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Three photos from an old file

I step into the photo, which is labelled Pioneers Bar, East Tamaki, 1980. I can smell the cigarette butts that have fallen like petals into the potted plant by the bar. I can smell the piss and flat beer in the carpet. I close my eyes. I inhale my childhood.
Clifton Firth may have photographed my paternal grandparents, though I am still to find the image. He was a Marxist modernist famous, and well rewarded for his shots of Auckland's industrial architecture and its bourgeoisie. If you wanted your freezing works or your Remuera debutante daughter photographed, then Clifton was your man. About 1967 Clifton's daughter Ann commandeered his camera, and shot her siblings playing about a half-built Paremoremo prison.
In 1960 these technicians posed at Otahuhu's telephone exchange. There is an ease, a confidence about them. They can read the wires of the vast machine; they are, were, masters of modernity. Now their machine is lost, their skills old folklore. Today's cyber gurus have inherited the technicians' smiles.


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Blogger Richard said...

Come in Scott. I may have been to that bar as I was living in South Auckland in 1980.

The techs look to me as if they are setting up the exchange, which is or was a step by step relay-switching system (electro-mechanical) that replaced operators etc. Or they are running a test. They are on the "fuses" side of the cable-switching connection. The wires in front are what were called 'jumpers' and connected between the cable termination and the actual telephone connection point. They only have a few jumpers so I think they are possibly setting up the exchange or testing.

But now the exchange(s) will be computer controlled. But they will have to have some equivalent system to connect to cables or to the input to fibre optic networks or other internet networks etc. Or (and), in some cases to landlines also. But the relay exchange (BPO based system) was still quite complex. There was also an exchange system that linked circuits with little light bars. So, inside such an exchange (they were sometimes small enough to fit into a containor so they were just loaded off a ship and then wired up where they were needed (one on Redoubt road about the mid 80s had all numbers beginning with 263 and covered a lot of Manukau, Clover Park (where I lived). (A mate of mine was an "exchange tech" and worked on them). There was a constant kind of music as the connections tinkled and twitched as if alive! They were in between those older exchanges and computer based switching systems which came in about the mid 80s.

Interesting photographs.

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