Marty Plotnick's CyberZone

History of Hawai'i Communications

Marty Plotnick's CyberZone







bulletPART 1.  In earlly 1878, Maui's Charles H. Dickey installed Hawai'i's first two telephones between his home and his store. The phones were rented from a Mainland firm and ran on wet cell batteries.On December 23, 1880, a charter was granted to the Hawaiian Bell Telephone Company.  (Bell had nothing to do with the company. The name "Bell" was added to honor Alexander Graham Bell.) The primary investor was the Orient Bell Telephone Company of London and the first order was for 50 phones from a Belgium manufacturer. 


bulletPART 2. For most of 1900 transmitting/receiving stations were set up, but failed for the most part. The Marconi techies were sent back to the Mainland and Marconi sent an "expert" to solve the problem. He did. He used Ben Franklin's kite experiment and found the right locations for the stations. Service was spotty and Wireless Telegraph ran into debt. The "expert" bought the judgments for $600. and got local businessmen and sugar planters to put up $1,000. a month to continue attempts to get reliable service.


bulletPART 3. The first strike against Mutual was called by the IBEW, beginning on May 3, 1920. Approximately 75 of Mutual's employees were union members, including 60 linemen.  During negotiations before the Public Utilities Commission, Mutual surprised everyone by voluntarily offering a general wage increase totaling $87,000 a year if the PUC would approve it.


bulletPART 4. The Great Depression had begun in October 1929 and by late 1931 was beginning to bite at Mutual's business. During late 1931, 180 small businesses disconnected their phone service but a whopping 823 residence subscribers cancelled. In the country districts, six percent cancelled along with the nine percent on the city side.


bulletPART 5. Some of these wait-listed folks had been on the list for up to four years. But even though had laid 12,500 miles of cable in 1945, it still had problems getting copper and lead, as government restrictions had not been lifted. It took over six months from War's-end to get 200 lines installed. From that point in March 1946, 500 went hot in May, 800 in June, etc. By the end of 1940, 3,800 new lines were installed. 1946 began with 978 employees, double that of 1940. The payroll went from 1940's over $1 million to $2.25 million.


bulletPART 6. In August, 1959, Statehood became reality after decades of attempts. At Hawaiian Telephone--the new name for Mutual Telephone--growth was spurred by the Territory's new status.  By the end of 1960, Hawaiian Telephone had 200,000 lines installed.  These customers now had dial service assistance and toll-free dialing on all islands was operational. This feat made the Island of Hawaii the single largest toll-free calling area in the United States.


bulletPART 7.  This installment begins with the end of the company's first century and beginning of it second in 1983. This benchmark was also the start of an upheaval in the telecommunications industry unprecedented in the entire history since Watson answered Bell's hail.   This new era exploded the sedentary legacy phone company attitudes nationwide with a whole new vocabulary of technology and business concepts.


bulletPART 8.  In 1989, after 105 years of service, Hawaiian Tel went modern by leasing an IBM 3090-200E mainframe computer to handle its accounting "chores". The company would not disclose the cost of the lease.


bulletPART 91991 saw HawTel finishing its 1990 fiscal year ending with $539.3 million in gross income and $52.0 million in profit. The company paid its parent--GTE Corp.--a record $$43.5 million in dividends.