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May 11, 1988

FIRE AT THE ILLINOIS BELL FIBRE OPTIC SWITCHING CENTRE

By CBR Staff Writer

The fire at that Illinois Bell fibre optic switching centre on Sunday (CI No 926) gave hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans a very blue Monday: not only were flights severely restricted and delayed at O’Hare airport, but over 300 automatic teller machines in the City and suburbs could only tell customers they were unable to come up with the readies, several banks that use the automated clearing system were unable to cash cheques, travel agents couldn’t get through to the Apollo air reservations system, Sears Roebuck’s catalogue sales operation was unable to sell, and cellular phones all over Chicago were struck dumb; the calamity was a nasty reminder of how dependent we all are now on computers and telecommunications, and has caused Ameritech, owner of Illinois Bell, to rethink its contingency planning – the switching centre was programmed to transfer only 25% of its capacity to other switching stations before it was wiped out.

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