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A HISTORY OF COMPUTER COMMUNICATIONS: 1968 -1988

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Bernard Strassburg

Paul Baran

Bernard Strassburg, trained as a lawyer and spent 31 years, from 1942 to December 1973, with the Common Carrier Bureau (CCB) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). On November 22, 1963, he was named Chief of the CCB. At that time, the responsibility of the CCB was largely the regulation of the telephone industry; that meant the regulation of AT&T. Strassburg credits a new staff economist, Dr. Manley Irwin, in conversations in 1965, as introducing him to “some of the things that were happening in the outside world where communications and computers were converging.” In 1966, Strassburg innovated the use of a Public Inquiry that began, as he would later title a book he co-authored, A Slippery Slope: The Long Road to the Breakup of AT&T. The story of the years after the first Public Inquiry are briefly reconstructed in the book found on the Computer History Museum website. The fact is, the history of computer communication might have played out very differently without the heroic actions of Bernard Strassburg.

Entrepreneurial actions are not limited to the starting of new enterprises as Strassburg amply demonstrated. It was an honor to interview him and to have captured in his words the story of the deregulation and breakup of AT&T, at the time the largest corporation in the world. Although he had retired years earlier, he arranged to have a room in the CCB offices for our hour and a half interview. As I walked down the large marble hallways, and then paused before opening the formal wooden doorway, I took some deep breathes. Inside the gated wooden dividers made me think of attorney offices of old that I had seen in pictures. I was quickly directed to the waiting Strassburg. I could hardly imagine, as I looked around, that once, as Strassburg would reflect: “My office was sort of the balance for this industry.” He is one of the unsung heroes of the beginnings of the Information Economy. Strassburg and Betty Henck’s book is a very informative read.

Keywords: FCC CCB, AT&T

Bernard Strassburg Interviewed by James Pelkey 5/3/88