Note: there is a short break in the film at 1:33 in.
This strange little dance film was created to explain the mathematical necessity of instituting switching systems and direct dial within the telephone network. "Conversation Crossroads" explains why we don't have 50 million wires connecting 10,000 phones, and why the job of operator had to be phased out (can you imagine how many operators we'd have to have if you had to go through one every time you made a call?).
Made in 1958, the year that the company began phasing out letter prefixes, the film forecasts future loads on the network, and shows plans for future integration of computers into telephone switching (also see John Robinson Pierce's article on future telephone from the same period—where he even posits a "pocket telephone"!). This film explains automatic dialing with a core sequence of infographics, bookended by dancers who interpret the history of switching and the happy network of "today".
The company that made this film for the Bell System was unusual and highly-respected within the field of commercial films at the time. On Film, Inc., based in Princeton, NJ, used a collective artistic production structure — every man and woman who worked on their films were given equal billing as a "designer" (there are seven who made this film). On Film worked with some avant-garde artists of the time during this period, too, including hiring Stan Brakhage and Stan VanDerBeek as creative participants in the process, though neither worked on this particular film. In a circular turn, VanDerBeek went to Bell Labs to craft experimental computer films a few years later — you can see him at work in the short Incredible Machine.
Also worth mentioning: one of the seven designers, Richard Bagley, had shot the documentary On The Bowery, which was nominated for an Oscar the year before he worked on Conversation Crossroads.
Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ