Prior to toll-free, operators handed local and long distance calls to other operators and through switchboards. In 1967, AT&T invented toll-free to reduce operator-assisted calls. In 1980, the company was awarded the patent which opened up the market to issue 8 million 1-800 phone numbers.

Rotary Phone

In 1975, when Weber started working on 1-800 technology, only 5% of all calls were toll-free. His challenge: to use still-evolving digital technologies to revolutionize toll-free service. His breakthrough idea was simple and elegant. Under Weber’s system, a toll-free number isn’t a “number” at all; it’s a pointer to a computer file. The network consults that file for instructions on what to do with the call — and then undertakes an elaborate set of procedures to get the call to the right place at the right time.


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1981, the first full year of 1900 service, AT&T processed 10.9 million calls. Until the spring of 1985, no one leasing a 900 number got any money from the calls. AT&T kept it all – 50 cents for the first minute and 35 cents for each subsequent minute. In April 1985, however, AT&T began giving 900 providers up to 5 cents from each call, depending on volume, to increase business. For the first time, companies of all sorts got into 900 numbers to make money. Demand for…Continue Reading “1-900 spurs new entrepreneurs”

The Telephone Decency Act introduced in 1987 and enacted by Congress in 1988 amended the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit any obscene or indecent telephone communication, in foreign or interstate communication or in the District of Columbia, for commercial purposes to any person.

Touch-Tone system used audible tones for each number on the phone and this opened up new efficiencies for the phone sex industry. Computers accepted credit card information by the caller who input the digits on the dialpad.

Phone sex operators (PSO) worked from home or at an office. Flexibility in scheduling typically attracted women interested in part-time or supplemental income. PSOs were compensated by duration and volume of calls received.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, which monitors global phone businesses, phone sex is a $2 billion industry.