Was the telephone a community building tool?

Once again, we're back to This Day in History, for our date link, and it's a link with significance both for technology and "information retrieval". We read that on February 21, 1878

I suppose that it's easy to view that event as lacking much earth shattering significance, but the telephone directory has become a metaphor for the organization of large quantities of information, so its beginnings deserve mention. Perhaps worthy of note is the fact that the directory consisted of a single page with the fifty names, and only the names. My source writes: "no numbers were needed", though to my mind a comment of that sort raises more questions than it answers. Why weren't numbers needed? Because each call went through an operator? If so, no directory was needed. Because you dialed someone's name? That's a nice idea which I doubt was actually realized back then. To tell the truth, I don't know how people dialed phones back then, or if they dialed at all.

The first telephone directory definitely seems to be a source of pride. On a web page of the Southern New England Telecommunications Corporation we read that:

But in keeping with the topic of this month's column, it seems proper to ask whether the telephone brought people together or separated them. The obvious, knee-jerk answer is that of course it brought them closer together, but were the first fifty people in New Haven to have their names in the directory brought closer to each other? Perhaps they were distanced from the rest of the city's inhabitants. Did they find that though they were in a position to speak comfortably with one another while at home, they had nothing to say? Or that speaking to someone without seeing him or her was an alienating experience?

And one more question: were people constantly asking how to integrate the telephone into the educational experience?

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