Fences as primitive phone networks


20 Responses to “Fences as primitive phone networks”

  1. Crap! I think I got that confused. I’ve been trying to use optical fiber to keep my cattle on my ranch.

  2. nixiebunny says:

    Richard Stallman would approve!

  3. xzzy says:

    Sounds like an early implementation of UUCP!

  4. Kevin Pierce says:

    I recall being at a convention/meeting in San Jose, CA in the early 90′s where a Novell representative was taking questions.  TCP/IP was kinda new to LANs back then and if you were running Novell NetWare, you were absolutely running IPX/SPX.  

    Coax wiring (ThinNet) EtherNet and ArcNet were the prevailing physical layers.  

    A question arose regarding whether IPX/SPX would be supported over some new physical layer – fiber NICs I think – and the response from the podium was “If enough customers are asking for it, IPX could be implemented to run over barbed wire.”

  5. sota767 says:

    Barbed-wire phone even causes the same pain as the regular phone company.

    • cdh1971 says:

      Wow — it makes me feel better to know that someone else stripped a telephone wire when they were 8, stuck it in his mouth and hollered to the next-door neighbour boy to dial their home number. 

  6. Robert Cruickshank says:

    If you called someone in town, going through their fence might incur lawn-distance charges. 

  7. jandrese says:

    The lack of “long distance bills” was kind of a given anyway since this system would only be useful for local calls regardless.  Granted, “local” is a pretty big area in a midwestern ranch, but you’re not going to be calling people three towns over with this setup. 

    In fact it doesn’t scale at all.  It’s a neat hack for two people, but rapidly falls apart if more than two want to join in. 

  8. LongFlight says:

    After the wildfires destroyed our area in 2011 in Texas, we sat around a fire one cold winter night in a burned out forest talking about how to rebuild.  In the event of a disaster like a flood, or fire or viral driven zombie apocalypse – basic things we take for granted like instant communication with our neighbors and loved ones becomes crucial.  We realized that even though there were evacuations, many of the homes around us never received notice.  In a thick forest setting where everyone owns at least several acres with a wildfire spreading quick – if the cell towers are burning, and the land lines are down, and the police are running too – how can we make sure everyone knows to there’s an emergency?

    How can we know if a neighbor is in trouble?

    The fence wire telephone system is a great idea because it relies on no central hub.  It uses a series of basic protocols that are easily understood and could greatly benefit small hamlet type communities.  It uses materials that are easily acquirable even after a major disaster.  Just think if all your neighbors came running in an emergency to help.

    We had the idea for a fence wire telephone system that post-disaster cold winter night, and although we didn’t implement it – it’s nice to know it worked a long time before we ever thought of it.

    /something to file away for the future.

    • bkad says:

      That’s the kind of world ham radio operators dream of. Unfortunately few people are licensed or equipped for that. Something creatively rigged like you describe could work, though it still suffers a bootstrap problem where you already need to be able to communicate in order to tell them how to set up their communication.

      I was in an area that was hit by the utilities/communications blackout of Hurricane Sandy (thankfully, no permanent injuries or property damage where I was). Losing that communication, especially cell phone connectivity (which I take for granted as being more reliable than our landline) was a little disturbing.

      • phuzz says:

         I’d guess that the effective range of this would be the sort of distance you could walk or ride easily, so you could expand your network by just following the fence wire, repairing as necessary, until you reached your neighbours.

      • The Doctor says:

        The up-close-and-personal method works best.  You walk next door and telll two people, and maybe help them set up.  Then they walk some distance away and tell people, and so on, and so forth…

        It’s an alien concept these days – not assuming that someone already has something and helping them set up – but it worked for many years when neighborhoods were people who knew and interacted with one another, and didn’t just pass one another on the street on their way to work.

  9. CH says:

    That was a delightful article to read, thank you for the link!

  10. IronEdithKidd says:

    Is “Monkey Ward” some kind of Texasism?  I’ve never heard such a nickname for Montgomery Ward before.

    What do I know, I come from a state where people often pronounce Target as a French word.  

  11. Tim H says:

    This is a little off-topic but it’s one of the many good ol’ boy stories that came down to me from the farmer days of my family:

    My grandfather when he was young took an even-then-old crank-the-handle-to-get-the-operator type phone and wired it to the body of his friends car.  Those phones were actually little electrical generators, you’d crank the handle to send a charge down the wire to ring the bell on the operators console.  When my grandfather’s friend grabbed the car door handle my grandfather cranked up the phone and gave him a terrible shock through the car’s body.

    The friend was livid but got over it quick and they pulled the prank on the other folks leaving the house each in turn. 

    I think that when I was told this story I was also told that they kept the old phone around to stun ponds full of fish, which would then rise to the surface.  That last part might’ve been true or a tall tale or I could have heard it somewhere else entirely.

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