During a recent phone call home I found myself bragging to my Nephew Chris about how I get to write about neat technological advances in this column. “That’s nothing,” he said. “I get to do the fun stuff.” What do you mean? “I’m actually building the on-ramps and off-ramps of the information superhighway.” Chris works as a cable splicer for NYNEX, the New York City phone company purchased by our own Bell Atlantic not too long ago.
“No matter how sophisticated the machines in-between get, there’s always going to be a primitive side.” In describing his job, Chris told me he was rewiring whole neighborhoods in the posh suburb of Woodbury, Long Island. “It’s all glass in from the City,” a native New Yorker’s code word for Manhattan. “Somebody like me wires a work frame in a Control Environment Vault.” That’s an underground bunker which houses the main hubs of the phone network. Each one represents the first three digits of your phone number he told me. “There’s a highway of wires, maybe four of five thousand phone lines that get hooked into the fiber optic net at each vault.”
I get Chris to admit he likes the uniform and cherry-picker utility truck most of all. “Sure. I walk up to each house and let them know we’re there to rewire their phone service. It’s never a problem when they find out we’re improving phone service and not charging a dime.” Chris is lucky. He’s putting together the infrastructure of the new millennium.