This Pete Shelley video could be used as historical document
Have you ever had that awkward moment with a child trying to explain things in the '80s that really don't exist in today's technological world? Explaining a rotary phone must be done visually through an old TV show like The Brady Bunch. To explain a telephone operator, we probably couldn't even use the video Telephone Operator by Pete Shelley to properly lay out our '80s fascination with the faceless voices on the other end of the line.
Today all the kids know about Siri, Watson and Cortana - the personal voice assistants for your phone or computer. These advances are great, but does anybody miss a real telephone operator and do they even exist anymore? Back in the 20th century, telephone operators were so prominent that they inspired many a popular song from the '70s with Jim Croce (Operator), Tom Waits (Martha) and Nick Lowe (Switchboard Susan) to the '80s with hits like New Edition's Mr. Telephone Man and Lost and Found songs like The RAH Band - Clouds Across The Moon (featured in 2012) and today's gem Telephone Operator by Pete Shelley.
Shelley has been on the SIT80's blog before as a solo artist when Never Found featured Homosapien and also separately in his early days as a member of the Buzzcocks. In 1983, Shelley tried to build on the success of Homosapien with the release of the album XL1 and the single Telephone Operator which made it to No. 66 on the U.K. charts, proving to be Shelley's highest-charting single of his solo career. As part of the promotion for XL1, the initial releases of the album included a computer program for an 8-bit U.K. PC called ZX Spectrum that played graphics and lyrics in time with the music. Those graphics can be viewed on Youtube if you want to see what you were missing back in 1983.
All of that could explain the video for Telephone Operator that has Shelley all entangled with hardware and sporting a shirt than seems very close to the graphics of Tron. Today, Shelley seems more focused on a Buzzcocks reunion than his solo career.