In 1977, Bell Labs built an early touch-screen system to more easily produce advertisements for inclusion in the Yellow Pages. The system was designed to eliminate the need for physical paste-ups, allowing easy creation of graphic advertisements that would go directly from the screen to the Phone Book.
The system represented a huge leap forward for the business directory, which had been published in various forms, by various companies, since 1906. AT&T sought to constantly improve the publishing process — even small efficiency boosts in the Yellow Pages production could make a huge difference in cost, because of the huge quantities involved in both content and printing.
Improvements in desktop publishing software through the last few decades obviated the need for the system seen in this film, and the emergence of the internet and other information-distribution media made the phone book business less essential. AT&T announced in April 2012 that it would sell a majority stake in its phone book business to an outside company.
Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ