How a Kansas City undertaker changed modern communications

It’s no secret I love 99% Invisible. The latest episode starts with this:

If you are an undertaker in 1878 Kansas City, and you learn that your competitor’s wife works as a telephone switchboard operator and has been diverting business calls meant for you to her husband, you have three potential courses of action:

(1) Contact the telephone company and try to get the operator fired.

(2) Take the operator and her husband to civil court and try to sue for damages.

(3) Revolutionize the entire telephone system by inventing an automatic telephone switching system that allows people to dial each other directly, thereby eliminating any need for a telephone switchboard operator.

Almon Brown Strowger went with (3).

Listen to it all here.

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How a Kansas City undertaker changed modern communications