Telephone Multi-Tasking in 1929

On May 25, 1929, publication of "Mr. Bonner." The New Yorker.

Mr. Bonner gave me three precious seconds of a long-distance call to ask me to be seated. What I heard of the call was "Yes. Yes. Mm. Yes. Good-good-good. Good, Mac." At this point another of the three phones on Mr. Bonner's desk rang insistently. Mr. Bonner asked Mac to wait just a sec, lowered the phone in his right hand, and held the mouth part against his chest. At the same time he picked up the insistent phone with his left hand He said into it: "This Edmunston? Edmunston, Bonner talking ..." .... Mr. Bonner lowered his left phone and muffled the mouth and ear ...

As Mr. Bonner once more was effecting the transfer of phones to his mouth a little old Italian came in, carrying a box with a foot pedal on the top. Mr. Bonner glanced hastily at his shoes, and with both phones in mid-air said, "Cooma sta, Tony. Shinem right now." He placed his foot on the pedal at the exact moment of placing the right phone to his chest and the left to his mouth..... Mr. Bonner then placed the phone on the stretching horns and, at the same time, of course, clapped the MacDougall phone to his mouth and ear.

Then it happened. He was making some notes with his left hand and wetting his lips preparatory to a good chat with MacDougall just as Tony got off his knees, the shine completed. At this point Mr. Bonner caught the phone with his shoulder, held it in place, crossed a "t" on the notes he had made, and, his right hand free, reached in his trousers pocket and fished out a dime and a nickel for Tony.

That's when I had to leave the room.

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