Looking Back - 1939 to 2011 - the Autobiography of Robert V. J. Padula, OAM

1960 - Working at Deepdene Telephone Exchange

1941 - Bikes and Cars
1943 - Hiking - Hills and Coasts
1944 - Growing up in the War Years - Part 1
1944 - Growing up in the War Years - Part 2
1944 - Growing up in the War Years - Part 3
1945 - Auburn schooldays - Part One
1945 - Auburn Schooldays - Part Two
1945 - Auburn Schooldays - Part Three
1945 - Upwey and the Puffing Billy
1945 - Gramaphones and Record Players
1946 - Flinders St Station
1946 - Astronomy
1946 - Beach and Swimming Adventures
1946 - Going to the Pictures
1947 - Adventures at the Altona Bungalow
1947 -The Listener-In Magazine
1947 - Balwyn WIldlife Sanctuary
1948 - Fishermen's Bend Aerodrome
1948 - Radio Australia QSL cards
1948 - Excursions
1949 - Australian Rules Football
1949 - Radio Monitoring at Auburn
1950 -Trains and Ships
1950 - Radios for Communications
1950 - Radio Listening Clubs in Australia
1950 - World Radio TV Handbook
1950 - Shortwave Radio Propagation Research
1950 - Medium Wave Radio Propagation Research
1950 - Radio and Hobbies Magazines
1950 - Discovering shortwave radio at Auburn
1951 - Photography
1951 - Competitions on local radio stations
1952 - Camp Buxton - YMCA Shoreham
1952 Tennis and Ten Pin Bowling
1953 - Stamp Collectiong
1953 Camberwell High School
1954 - Royal Visit to Melbourne
1954 - Shortwave Radio reception at Auburn
1956 - Melbourne's Olympic Games
1956 - Trainee Telecommunications' Technician
1957 - Trainee Technician - field work
1957 - National Service Registration
1958 - Laverton Air Show
1958 - MOOMBA Parade
1958 - Trainee Technician - field work
1959 - The move to Mont Albert
1960 - Working at Deepdene Telephone Exchange
1963 - Trade Unions, Staff Associations, Industrial Relations
1964 - Senior Technician work in the Melbourne CBD
1964 - Project support for Radio Australia
1964 - Project support for Radio Australia
1964 - Amateur Radio
1964 - Media Writing
1964 -Travels
1964 - Engineering Support for International Broadcasters
1965 - Professional Employment with PMG/Telstra
1967 - Professional Qualifications - Institution of Engineers Australia
1967 - Australian Radio DX Club Photo Gallery (to 1979)
1972 - Wireless Institute of Australia
1972 - Natural disasters in Melbourne
1980 - Australian Radio DX Club Gallery (to 1995)
1981 - Award of the Medal of the Order of Australia
1995 - Padula Books
SPECIAL CHAPTER - Oldtime Australian Radio Drama from the 1930s
SPECIAL CHAPTER - Radio Monitoring Clubs in Australia - 1920 to 1949
SPECIAL CHAPTER - Melbourne Picture Theatres - History - 1906 to 1970

1960 DeepdeneTest Desk being worked by a Trainee (Ian Hall)



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 – WY 4999.


It was a “2000 type” exchange, consisting of eight foot rack-mounted equipment installed in aisles, and a two-position test desk.


The exchange 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.


The batteries 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 load.


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.


Deepdene exchange had been selected as the central operations point for management of the newly introduced Traffic Route Testing (TRT) testing program.


This program was an automated system where test calls were sent across the Melbourne metropolitan switching network, on a pre-programmed basis.


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.


Unsuccessful 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.


Calls outside 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.



Occasionally, 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.


Whenever one 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.


Deepdene exchange 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!

ere 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?”!


The exchange 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.


After leaving 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.


1960 - author, testing incoming junction circuits


During my tenure at Deepdene, some new projects were set in place. These included Interception of Dead Level Traffic, automatic testing after hours of subscribers lines, socialized testing of junction circuits to other exchanges.


This exchange was one of the best in the metro network in terms of reliability, freedom from major faults, and service effectiveness.


The OIC was a man with a strong desire to make the exchange the leader of its type, and he was actively involved in the daily work tasks by the staff.


Each staff member had their own work schedule – this could be test desk operation, connections of new or cancelled services, temporary disconnections of subscribers, operating the automatic routine tester, the TRT, equipment cleaning/oiling/adjustments, alarm monitoring and testing and fault correction.


The “desk” had six incoming circuits, including full testing access to all subscribers’ lines, “order wires” to the Hawthorn main exchange test desk and complaints centre.


The Senior Technician would analyse all fault dockets.


Maintenance was “preventative” where each piece of equipment was completely checked, adjusted, cleaned and lubricated and then put back into service, on a programmed arrangement


In 1961, a mew system of maintenance was introduced, known as “qualitative” maintenance, where equipment was thoroughly checked zed readjusted on a rack--by-rack basis, using traffic outage indicators.,.


Then, another system was tried – “corrective maintenance” - if it ain't broke, don't fix it!


The 7am-8am hour was done by one of us on a rostered basis.

1960 Badminton Game


At the rear of the exchange there was a large unused storeroom, about 20 metres by 40 metres.


Some of us decided to convert this into a sports stadium, which we used during lunch breaks and after work!


We painted white lines on the floor, strung up a head-high net/rope, and developed a game based on a combination of badminton and tennis, using table-tennis bats and plastic shuttlecocks.


We created rules of our game – the idea was to gain points – the first to reach 21 was the winner.


Each parson had five serving shots, then the other person would have five shots, etc. The objective was to hit or serve the shuttle over the net so that the opponent couldn't hit it back, without tot touching the floor. The “hitting/serving” person gained a point if the opponent hit the shuttle into the roof, landed it outside the white line, or broke it!


We developed a lot of skill with our game, in being able to spin the shuttle (wrist spin), put “turn” or ”swerve” on it (like cricket”, do “banana benders” (where the shuttle changed direction by up to 90 degrees during flight.


All this was quite energetic and staff from neighbouring exchanges came down to watch or do combat! The popularity of these tournaments was huge, and we were forced to introduce a Roster, sometimes restricting each perron to one game.


The Exchange OIC was also a very keen percipient!


I won several tournaments, as it was said that I was pretty good at this!


We experimented with badminton racquets with long handles, but this was not successful.

1960 - Staff members, author at right

1960 Members of staff

1960 Trainee working on Main Frame

1960 - staff members

1960 - the author, adjusting equipment

1960 - Trainee adjusting equipment

1960 Trainee at Test Desk

1960 - Trainee adjusting equipment

1961 Author and the A40 car and mate from Telstra, near Ararat

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