Retired GTE phone switch uses connections to get in Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History has added to its
collections an early 1980s switch prototype. It was developed by GTE Corp. to demonstrate
that voice and data traffic could coexist on networks.

It was the forerunner of asynchronous transfer mode technology, said Fletcher Haselton,
the retired GTE researcher whom the company credits as the father of the Burst Switch.
Used for demonstrations by GTE’s government systems division until 1992, the Burst
Switch last week was moved to the Smithsonian museum in Washington.

“This updates our collection with a very modern and fairly complex networking
technology,” said Elliott Sivowitch, a Smithsonian curator.

The Burst Switch’s distributed technology is now common on data networks, said
Stanford Amstutz, a systems engineer who worked on the project.

Early switches were central office devices attached to thousands of copper wire pairs.

—William Jackson 


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