California's earliest high-tech adopters weren't 1970s Silicon Valley programmers – they were Chinatown switchboard operators c 1894. To connect callers, operators spoke six languages fluently and memorized 1500-plus Chinatown residents by name, residence and occupation. Managers lived at the pagoda-topped exchange, operating the switchboard 365 days a year until 1949. Since people born in China were prohibited from entering the US during the 1882–1943 Chinese Exclusion era, the exchange provided Chinatown residents with their only family contact for 60 years.
The landmark building was bought and restored by the Bank of Canton in 1960.