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klecser

Dialing a number overseas

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Hey everyone,

I'm trying to keep my game quasi-authentic. This is not the first time my players have been overseas, but this is the first time they asked to attempt to do the following. This isn't happening in a game session, so I have a little time to research. If it happened in game, I probably would have just ruled that it could happen.

My players are in Calcutta, India. They have a name and name of business of someone in New York. They do not have a phone number. Our game year is 1923.

If they got connected to an operator in New York (assuming the connection weren't so bad that it was unintelligible), what access to information would a switchboard operator have in 1923? If you call them, and give them a business name, would they be able to look up the number? It seems like, at that time, they just followed the instructions of the person connected and a person had to know a number in advance. A dedicated Directory assistance number doesn't seem to have existed in New York until 1930.

Now, there are ways around this, obviously. A New York contact finds the info for them using local phone books. I feel like even the best libraries in India won't have up-to-date New York phone books. Maybe that is a poor assumption because the British have an interest in keeping that info available? 

I just want to know what a realistic set of barriers would be for someone in this situation in 1923.

Edited by klecser

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If the players know the name and the name of the business, couldn't they just send a telegram? Leave the actual routing to the telegram delivery company.

Edited by Gundamentalist

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12 minutes ago, Gundamentalist said:

If the players know the name and the name of the business, couldn't they just send a telegram? Leave the actual routing to the telegram delivery company.

They may not in Calcutta long enough, hence the desire to call.

Edited by klecser

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Marconi made the first transatlantic radio call in 1901. You could have your PCs visit an electrical nerd.

The technology for sending a radio signal halfway around the world is not complex, and would have been well known to nerds and tinkerers by the 1920s.

Modern radios are really complex because they have really cruddy antennas. If you put a decent antenna on a radio (as in a very long antenna strung between two tall wooden poles, or a loop of wire which goes all the way around your house), and attach the other end to earth, and use a 100s of volts in your transmitter circuit (not unusual in early valve systems), even a simple radio with a dozen or so components can push a signal halfway around the world. 

As for valves, the technique to make them is not rocket science. You need a really good vacuum, but the technology for achieving such a vacuum was well known by the early 1900s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_tube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzyXMEpq4qw (someone making their own vacuum tube)

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Another option, it is a Cthulhu adventure. They could find a telephone somewhere, feel entirely normal about using it, then the next day the building is gone, and nobody knows anything about it.

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