John Crowley’s more than just amusing account of helping digitize NYC’s first phone book in the September 2014 issue of Harper’s might be a primer on some of the hiccups we may experience moving to an Internet of Things.
Standards and Universality
The first listing is simply A, at 2145 Amsterdam Avenue. The next listing is another A, on 2nd Avenue, and then A, on East 38th Street. And I am reminded of the trick then used by New Yorkers who didn’t want to pay the charge for an unlisted phone number, or wanted a secret number easily passed to others. You just had your phone listed in code, or by your nickname, or a memorable letter.
The Non-glorious Positions Needed to Make IoT Happen
I remember these and similar peculiarities of the 1968 phone book only because, along with a number of other hippies, street people, oddballs, losers, and dropouts, I was hired that year by a temporary employment agency to proofread the pages of the Manhattan directory in a loft someplace in the West 40s.
The decrease of human readability
When we discovered an error in the new book (I can’t remember now what shorthand word we used for it), we took, from a constantly replenished pile, a slip of paper printed at the top with the letters B M L D T, each letter corresponding to a particular class of error. (We called this slip a “bee-melt.”) The faulty listing was copied onto the sheet and the appropriate letter circled.