telephone operator

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Telephone operator at work (1930)

A telephone operator (or telephone operator ) is an employee in voice traffic , whose job it is to phone calls to accept and to invitees convey .


In earlier telephone exchanges , manual calls were still required (sometimes with a crank inductor ), which was usually done by female telephone operators (hence “Fräulein vom Amt” or “Demoiselle”) in their own offices , because the high pitch was easier to understand than that of most men. Today, direct dialing of telephone numbers is possible almost everywhere in self-dialing traffic .

In larger companies , telephone operators were used to correctly assign calls until the end of the 20th century. Telephone systems , as they were used up to the 2000s, support the display of free and occupied extensions by control lamps or on the PC ; Voice dialog systems are increasingly taking over the task of telephone operators, telephone systems have been replaced by virtual telephone systems and IP telephony since the 2010s .

In emergency call centers and other control centers , the operators are also referred to as dispatchers . Another task that operators sometimes perform is the acceptance of messages from a caller and their transmission in text form, for example in a radio paging network such as Cityruf . Telephone operators were also used to record telegrams until the telegram service was discontinued .

The “Fräulein vom Amt” in Germany

From 1889 onwards, women replaced men in the telephone service. The main reason was the higher pitch of the voice , which could be understood better than that of the men in the switching centers via the telephone frequencies transmitted at the time. Your task was to transfer one participant to another participant. Each participant had their own connection socket on the flap cabinet . The standard sentence was “Here's a call for you” and the connection to the other party was established.

A good education, the best manners and, if possible, foreign language skills were required for this job . Only a few recruitment tests were carried out for the recording. The ladies had to be young, single and from a good family. Post financed the training and the apprenticeship period. The salary was similar to that of the secretary, for example. It was enough to provide for an unmarried woman.

This profession was very popular around the turn of the century. In 1897 there were almost 4,000 “ Fräulein vom Amt”. Ten years later there were already 16,000. With the development of electromechanical switching technology , in which electromechanical dialers such as the rotary dial set up the connections, the "Fräuleins" were gradually replaced by machines: In 1908, the first automatic local office in Germany was put into operation in Hildesheim. But it was not until 1966 that all local networks in the area of ​​the old Federal Republic were automated. The calls in the first cellular networks like the A-Netz were also based on manual switching.

To this day, a commercial transfer of calls is offered as " telephone directory assistance ".

Telephone operators in Switzerland

Similar professions

There are overlaps with today's job descriptions as call center agents (telephone agents) and in the training professions service specialist for dialogue marketing and businessman for dialogue marketing .


  • Yvonne Bühlmann, Kathrin Zatti: Women in the Swiss Telegraph and Telephone System, 1870–1914 . Chronos-Verlag, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-905278-96-0 .
  • Helmut Gold (ed.), Annette Koch (ed.), Rolf Barnekow (contributions): Miss from office. On the occasion of the exhibition “Fräulein vom Amt” in the Deutsche Postmuseum, Frankfurt am Main (May 4, 1993 to August 15, 1993) . Prestel-Verlag, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-7913-1270-7 .
  • Handheld dictionary of electrical telecommunications ; 2nd Edition
    • Volume 1: p. 457 (Fernplatz); P. 460 (Fernplatzarten, Fernplatzherbeiruf); P. 555 (remote table); P. 556–557 (remote connection in the hand-switched remote service)
    • Volume 3: p. 1812 (mediator)

Web links

Commons : Operator  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Telefonist  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Telegraph Technical Reichsamt: The German telegraph, telephone and radio system 1899-1924 . Here it says: "Since 1889, female workers (telegraph assistants) [...] have been employed in the telephone service."