A reader writes:
They noted that it was quoted in an IEEE Engineering Management journal in 1965 (approximately) by some guy named Richard C. Levine. One of them said "Levine was born in 1939. Is he still alive?"
Well, yes, he is still alive. See signature below! He has had a long career in telecom, having jobs at AT&T Bell Labs and Northern Telecom, to mention just a few. He has had about 15 patents issued during the past 50 years, and is still inventing and seeking venture capital today. He also has been an adjunct Professor of electrical engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas for over 20 years. He teaches a course in digital telecommunications technology from time to time. In connection with that course he still distributes copies of the quoted article.
You can find a more recent version of the article, with some historical notes at http://www.lyle.smu.edu/~levine/ee8320/wulet.rtf.
I suggest in particular that you read this 1976 article in the IEEE Spectrum by Michael Wolff that is mentioned in the above document. Also the following report is historically interesting as well: http://faculty.insead.edu/adner/research/Wester%20Union%20case%20sample.pdf.
In response to the question about where I got the letter: I put it together from two similar but not identical versions. One was widely known among engineers and business people in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the Boston area. I even saw a framed copy of the first version on the office wall of Richard E. Dolbear, an electrical engineer and expert on high voltage power systems, who was, by interesting coincidence, the grandson (or great grandson?) of Prof. Amos Dolbear. Amos Dolbear was a professor of science at Tufts Universisty, and he was one of the competitive inventors of a working telephone system in the 1870s, that appeared in the court records of the famous telephone cases. Dolbear's telephone was one of the first devices to use a variable capacitance microphone.
The second version of the letter, which is closer to the one I published, was copied from the files of MIT Professor Carlton Tucker. Tucker was an expert on electromechanical telephone switching and taught a survey class on telephone systems at MIT in the 1950s. [Phil note: and who is quoted in an article titled "Telephone Hackers Active" from the MIT student newspaper in 1963 -- an article that also happens to be the first published use of the word "hacker" that I am aware of.]
Richard C. Levine
The Internet is indeed a funny (and small) place. If you’re at all interested, be sure to check out the 1976 Michael Wolff IEEE Spectrum article that Richard mentions above – it appears to settle the matter definitively.Richard, thanks for writing, and glad to hear you’re still alive. :-)