OF 1960 to 1963 – DEEPDENE EXCHANGE
In 1960, I was
in my fifth year of the Trainee Technician program and I was stationed at the Deepdene Telephone Exchange,
a typical suburban switching centre, servicing some 4000 subscribers.
Located in Cotham
Rd, it was one of many similar exchanges built in the mid 1940s around Melbourne, and the number range was WY 1000 –
It was a “2000
type” exchange, consisting of eight foot rack-mounted equipment installed in aisles, and a two-position test desk.
operated at 48V DC, via a large battery of lead-acid cells, from two generators, fed from the 240V commercial supply. The
generators would be changed over each day. There was a no-break diesel engine and stand-by generator, delivering 240V AC if
a mains power failure occurred. The batteries were kept fully changed, and could power the exchange for up to day days in
the event of a disaster or breakdown of the diesel.
were kept “on float” from the generator, a typical arrangement which is still used today.
If a major disaster
occurred, there was provision to manually disconnect what were known as :non essential services”, to reduce the power
The morning peak
occurred between 9,30 and 10.30 am when power load on the main 48V busbar was 120 Amps.
A smaller weekday
peak occurred between 6,30 pm and 7.30 pm. Weekend traffic was randomly distributed.
The staff was
small, consisting of one technician, a technician's assistant, a senior technician, a Supervising Technician
(OIC), a cleaner/gardener, and a horde of rowdy trainees!
An outside fault
technician was also stationed there.
I had started
at Deepdene in 1959, and this was to be my "home station" until December 1963. I qualified as a Technician in December 1960,
and passed the Senior Technicians’ exams (theory and practical) in 1962.
had been selected as the central operations point for management of the newly introduced Traffic Route Testing (TRT) testing
was an automated system where test calls were sent across the Melbourne metropolitan switching network, on a pre-programmed
The calls were
sent to specially designed relay sets in each exchange at the remote ends, and a signal would be sent back to Deepdene,
indicating the progress of the call. This could have been OK, no progress, drop-out on reversal, wrong number, network congestion,
stop-on-busy, call dropouts or stop-on-busy.
calls would raise an audible and visual alarm at Deepdene, and no further test calls would be made until the cause of the
faulty circuit had been analysed and corrective action taken.
It was my job
as the TRT Officer in 1960 and 1961 to assess each of these unsuccessful calls, and to notify the remote exchange as
to what had happened. I also had to analyse traffic congestion and to advise the distant exchanges about the possible
causes and location of the stoppage.
of the Deepdene and adjacent switching areas were routed through the parent (main) exchange at Hawthorn or directly to adjacent
exchanges and then on to other main switching centres.
This was a fascinating
area and challenging area of involvement. The TRT rack had a digital and audible display showing all relevant details of the
progress of the test calls, which were sent out every minute.
In the early
stages of the project, the TRT was only used during normal working hours (7am – 5pm weekdays). Later, it was extended
to after-hours, then all night and on weekends, with automatic recording of unsuccessful calls made on a printer for attention
during the following day.
some Melbourne radio stations would arrange phone-in quizzes. The idea of this was that a question would be asked over the
air ns the first person to ring inn with the correct answer would win a prize.
of these quiz shows would be on the air, there would be a large increase of network traffic, when everyone in Melboi8rne,.
And Deepdene, would ring the station almost at the same time. The talk-back quizzes held nowadays work in much the same way.
We used to monitor
the quiz calls from Deepdene area subscribers – often, the first person to connect to the station would be told that
the prize had already been won by someone else, even though the link had only been open for a few seconds! Unlike nowadays,
there was no call queuing system at the station.
On the morning
of Saturday November 23 1963, Melbourne time and date, President Kennedy was assassinated. I was on duty at Deepdene on that
morning when local radio stations broadcast the sad news. The national switched network went into overload status around Australia,
with a massive number of calls being generated by concerned citizens, and network congestion was the highest ever experienced
to that date.
was caught up in all of this, with almost every circuit being overloaded.
About 200 metres
down the road were pubic tennis courts. Some of us used to go there during lunch breaks for an hour or so, if our exchange
sports “stadium” was too busy!
Chess would always be in progress in the lunch room during morning tea breaks, nominally ten minutes. In practice,
if the game was close, the tea breaks could extend to 30 minutes!
Adjacent to the Exchange was a large open paddock, part of the
nearby Catholic Convent. We used to jump the fence, take a footy, and do kick-the-kick during lunch breaks!
There was a milk
bar just down the road, and the junior of the trainees would be tasked in getting orders from staff for morning tea, and would
then trundle off to the shop and bring back a pile of drinks and cakes! He would
ask everyone “Want anything at the shop?”!
building is still there, but the equipment of the 1960s has long gone, replaced with modern systems, to support new generations
of switching technology. It is not staffed, and is remotely controlled from a distant centre.
The various activities
I’ve talked about here occurred during my term of employment there, between 1959 and 1963.
I said goodbye to Deepdene exchange in January 1964, and took
up a promotion to a new position of Senior Technician in the central business district, I was stationed at the Herald Office in Finders St, as part of a small team of specialists
maintaining the new generation of Pentaconta Crossbar Switching PABXs.
My time at Deepdene
was an illuminating period, marking my transition from a Trainee to a qualified Technician. We did a lot of interesting projects!
In 1962 I was
also attending RMIT part time, pursuing the Associateship Diploma of Communications Engineering.
the “dene”, I lost contact with the staff there, as everyone went their separate ways. In 1995,
I did run into one my Trainee friends of 1960, and we had a bit of a laugh at what we did at Deepdene! He had stayed with
the Company and was then in a senior Technical Management position.