Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview
down, are thought to account for the greater accuracy on the horizontal scale.

65. Human Factors Evaluation of a New Telephone Numerical Dialing System*

J. E. Karlin

WHEN A NEW item of telephone equipment is designed at Bell Laboratories, its technical aspects are put to an exhaustive series of tests before it is placed in the hands of the customer or of a Telephone Company employee. Characteristically, a new item is thoroughly tested in the laboratory and later is used in a field trial before it is recommended for general use. In this way, the Bell System guards against unforeseen circumstances which could lead to costly failures.

It has long been recognized, of course, that other factors besides those of a purely technical nature help to determine the success or failure of a new design. Specifically, since all equipment is at one point or another used, installed, or maintained by human beings, the Bell System has always considered the preferences and performance of users as one of the crucial groups of facts to be determined in any extensive trial of telephone equipment.

As outlined in a previous article ( Bell Laboratories Record, May, 1954), Bell Laboratories makes an organized effort to study user characteristics, and this raises the question as to how effectively human factors important in the telephone situation can be measured under laboratory conditions with Laboratories employees as test subjects. Clearly, both the "users" and the conditions may, in any given instance, vary widely from their counterparts in a real residence or business telephone situation. The value of human-factors testing, however, is seen by drawing an analogy with engineering testing. Large-scale field trials of equipment are expensive and are never undertaken unless technical facts determinable in the laboratory are known. A field trial could also be an inconvenience to customers if a major technical fault were found, and this is another reason that laboratory testing, even if it cannot uncover all the facts, ensures that the more inclusive trials under actual field conditions are worth their expense and effort. The same is true of human-factors test-

____________________
*
From "All-Numeral Dialing--Would Users Like It," Bell Laboratories Record, Vol. 36, 1958, pp. 284-88.

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