1960-1975 Alarm History: The Plague Of The Automatic Telephone Dialer

 

Just before the digital communicator revolutionized residential central station alarm monitoring in the late 1970’s were the days of the “Automatic Telephone Dialer”. This device was an add-on to the “local” burglar alarm systems of the day. It “pulse” dialed the phone number of the local police department and then played a pre-recorded message from an open real audio tape (something like the “Eight Track” tapes of the 1970’s and the cassette music tapes of the 1980’s.) When I was in high school in the 70’s I had both types of tape players in my 1968 Chevy Bell Air and piles of tapes in the back seat – half of them sounded terrible.

 

The Automatic Telephone dialer was a first attempt at providing remote alarm signaling at a low cost (it was free monitoring save for the cost of the dialer). The costly option in those days was leased phone line signaling to a central station which carried a phone company line charge of about $ 40.00 per month plus the central station monthly monitoring charges of an additional $ 30.00 to $ 40.00 per month.

 

The main problems with the tape dialer were:

 

  • Ineligibility; audio quality especially as tapes aged and with poor audio levels at the time of the recording,

  • Timing; even with a pause prior to spewing its prerecorded message it relied on the desk officer picking up the phone very quickly so often the office would at best hear a partial message. To be fair you could speak really fast and repeat your message couple times.

  • No confirmation and no “client” notification; basically it was just a little better than praying for police response.

  • Runaway False Alarms; If the alarm system connected to the Automatic Telephone Dialer experienced a “runaway” alarm condition it would keep re-triggering the dialer so police officers on the front desks would be inundated with repeat calls for hours on end.

Automatic Tape Dialers were a nightmare for the police and drove most police departments out of the “business” of allowing alarm systems to signal them directly. Today, False Alarms cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and continue to plague our emergency responders to this day. To learn more about eliminating false alarms, please read my post: Want faster 911 Response?

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