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Bob Mills

I was the Editor of your newsletters for nearly 25 years so maybe it is time you learned a little more about me.

I was born and bred in the northern suburbs of Sydney at Hornsby and I always had an interest in things mechanical and electrical. I was lucky to have an uncle (well, cousin really) who encouraged me and even took me to see the very first jet powered passenger aircraft (the Comet) to come to Australia. He gave me various electric motors and transformers so I could play with electricity.

Dad wasn’t at all well so I had to leave school at 15 and I was lucky to be appointed as a technician-in-training with the PMG in 1962 spending a year at Strathfield Training School. I was then appointed to Epping Exchange for the remainder of my 5 year’s training. Here I learnt Step-by Step and Crossbar maintenance as well as subscriber maintenance and installation. I also learned the negative side of training as practised by a certain senior technician where trainees were to be “seen and not heard” and given mundane repetitive jobs. This proved invaluable in later life where I was responsible for training other young technicians-to-be - what would my old senior do? - I would do the opposite - it proved a most successful ploy.

I was appointed as Senior Technician (Technical Officer) in late 1969 and continued mainly on Exchange Maintenance until 1980 doing quite a lot of STO relief around the district (when the Exchange boss was away). Notable during this time was 18 months spent as the boss of Brooklyn Exchange on the Hawkesbury River (staff of 2) where 4 out of 5 days was spent in a boat doing repairs for subscribers with water only access.

Towards the end of the 1970’s I was asked to relieve in several positions in the District Office. Here I was exposed to computers and I was thrust into an administration role on an experimental computer system. This resulted in my accepting an “in the city” position as the STO charged with the development of the new national computer system called CCAS (Call Charge Analysis System) which was designed to solve all the problems with subscribers disputing their bill. If we recorded details of every call made by a complaining subscriber, then we could prove that we have charged them correctly.

Yes, over 15 years, we developed a system that would record calls in virtually any one of the 3600 exchanges in Australia and, by 1995, we could connect equipment to any telephone line in Australia and report on the details of calls made (including dialled number, metering information but, of course, never the actual conversation that took place). I became the National Manager of this system that had lots of uses. I answered to Telecom Management and Legal, the State and Federal Ombudsmen, Politicians and the Police, both state and federal, regarding issues (often criminal) involving telephone use and abuse. I was called as a technical witness in numerous court cases all over the country.

In 1989 I travelled to Denmark, Norway and USA for negotiations regarding training and upgrading the systems. In 1991 I spent 6 months in Singapore, project managing the installation of the CCAS system into their network to handle issues regarding charging for local calls.

Alas, technology has taken over. The modern digital switch performs most of the functions of the CCAS system. I could see the writing on the wall and in June 1997 I took a redundancy from Telstra and drove a bus (this was my childhood ambition) for a year or so (and at the 2000 Olympics) and, in 2000, I started with a new company (Silcar) that sub-contracts to Telstra for the maintenance of AC power, power conversion, batteries and diesel power generation. I semi-retired at the end of 2007 but I still work casual looking after a small maintenance contract that Silcar has with a power company here in NSW. But I feel extremely lucky that I have enjoyed a long and incredibly exciting career with the PMG/Telecom/Telstra and beyond.

I started collecting old telephones in 1971 in a small way and joined the ATCS in 1981. The important thing I find about the ATCS is the great bunch of people in the Society and their enthusiasm and passion about their hobby.

I guess my passion is for wooden magneto wall sets (and the American scene in particular due to its diversity) although anything wooden of any age interests me plus some bakelites. I wrote the book “Collecting the Ericofon” in 1994 with great assistance from my brother-in-law, the late Ken Bushell, so the Ericofon also holds a special place in my collection.

I am blessed to be married to Jo, a great wife and partner in crime of 46 years. She understands my need to collect and restore - she collects perfume bottles herself so she has the “passion” and she accompanies me to the antique fairs and probably does better than me in her antique dealings.

As of the end of 2015, I resigned as Editor after 25 years and over 160 editions. I am still on the NSW Branch Committee and I maintain this web site.

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