The first telephone switchboard came into use with the introduction of the commercial telephone exchange in 1878, two years after the invention of the telephone. The switchboard enabled multiple subscribers to connect with each other, as opposed to the original system, which directly connected two parties by a wire.
The first switchboards had a series of sockets representing subscribers and a series of three-position keys, lights and cords that were used to connect calls, ring the phone receiving the call and allow the operator to speak to either party. The introduction of automatic switchboards allowed customers to dial their parties directly, although long distance calls required operators to manually connect them. Direct dialing for long distance further reduced the need for switchboard operators. Despite these advances in technology, the use of manual switchboards continued into the 1970s and 1980s when computerized boards began replacing them.