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Nov. 14, 2019
This paid piece is sponsored by SDN Communications.
The first telephones were installed in South Dakota about 120 years ago. That’s about the time Mitchell was beginning to challenge Pierre’s status as South Dakota’s capital.
Pierre survived an election challenge a few years after the first phones were installed. The riverside community in the middle of South Dakota continues to be widely perceived today as neutral turf in ongoing rivalries between the state’s eastern and western halves.
The telecommunications industry, meantime, has never stopped changing.
Phones with button-tap dialing gave way to rotary and touch-tone dialing. Candlestick and desk phones evolved into cordless devices and cellphones.
The quest for faster and more reliable service continues today, too, with the transition from copper to fiber transmission lines. So does the development and improvement of wireless technologies.
The history of the telecommunications industry in South Dakota is currently one of the featured exhibits at the South Dakota Hall of Fame in Chamberlain. The exhibit displays the history and growth of telephone services from party lines to videoconferencing.
Visitors can see the equipment that makes those connections possible, examples of the infrastructure that is often buried in the ground or hidden behind walls and how it has evolved over time.
Interactive quiz boards engage students and adults alike and a table-top-sized map identifies where broadband companies have coverage across the state. Display cards tell the story of how the industry has impacted communities for decades.
The Telecommunications Industry Excellence exhibit opened Sept. 13 and will remain for two years. After that, it will transition to an online display and a traveling exhibit.
Communications companies and membership groups that provided items and support for the display include:
Golden West Telecommunications in Wall also parked its trailer exhibit, Fence Posts to Fiber Optics, at the museum for the opening weeks of the display. Golden West created the mobile exhibit in 2016 to celebrate its 100th anniversary, and it was well-received across the state.
The opening of the telecommunications exhibit at the Hall of Fame building, which includes a visitor and education center, coincided with this year’s induction ceremony. Since 1974, the Hall of Fame has honored more than 700 South Dakotans for achievements.
The display tells the history of rural broadband and telecommunications services in a very interesting and engaging way, said Rich Coit, executive director of the South Dakota Telecommunications Association, or SDTA.
“The entire display is exceptional. And SDTA congratulates the South Dakota Hall of Fame staff on creating an excellent exhibit,” he said.
Companies affiliated with the SDTA and SDN have been important contributors to the development of the telecom industry in South Dakota. Most of the 18 telecoms that belong to SDTA are also investor-owners in Sioux Falls-based SDN Communications.
SDN was created in 1989 when the independent telephone companies of South Dakota connected their networks so that they could offer their customers better long-distance phone options.
Today, SDN’s member companies serve about 80 percent of South Dakota’s geography and about one-third of the state’s population with an array of telecom services.
The industry’s history is difficult to document, but the display at the Hall of Fame does a good job.
The public is welcome to drop by the museum during business hours. A donation of $5 per person, or $15 for a group of three people or more, is suggested.
Make a stop on your next trip across the state and check it out.
South Dakota Hall of Fame
1480 S. Main St.
Chamberlain, SD 57325
9 a.m to 5 p.m. weekdays
SDN Communications is a regional leader in providing broadband connectivity and cybersecurity services to businesses in communities such as Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Worthington, Minn., and the surrounding areas.
That rotary dial phone — with a cord — that you grew up with? Well, it’s now in a museum. But we think you’ll enjoy this look at telecommunications past and present at the South Dakota Hall of Fame.