Zip codes went into effect nationally on July 1, 1963. As of that date, Webster had two zip codes: 14580 covered most of Webster and West Webster had its own distinctive zip code -14581. As of the publishing of Esther Dunn’s book in 1970, Webster had 2 post offices: a new village location at 168 West Main Street, and a smaller facility at 1049 Gravel Road, servicing West Webster. Sometime around 1980 the distinctive West Webster “14581” zip code was eliminated, combining West Webster with Webster’s 14580.
In July 1982, rent on the Gravel Road location increased from $3052 to $14,000 annually, and the facility was relocated to The Chocolate Cow restaurant on Empire Blvd in West Webster. In October 1983 the Chocolate Cow facility was closed, pending an investigation by postal inspectors. Interim mail was handled at the main Webster facility on West Main Street until the new West Webster facility opened in Seitz Deli at 226 Ridge Road. The West Webster post office remained in the Ridge Road location until 2014 when Knucklehead Brewery took over the former deli location and it was relocated, once again, to share space with a Mobil gas station at the corner of Ridge and Bay Roads.
In September 1990, the village post office on West Main Street relocated to its current location – a new facility on Barrett Drive.
In 1970, it cost $0.06 to mail a letter. By 1980, it was $0.15, and $0.25 by 1990. First-class postage had increased to $0.33 by 2000, $0.44 by 2010, and $0.49 by 2015. In 2007, the “Forever” stamp was introduced. Forever stamps are purchased at the current first-class rate but can be used for any future first-class mailing, regardless of the current postage rate.
In 1992, the first self-adhesive stamps were introduced. Prior to this, postage stamps were “lick and stick.”
Email vs. Snail Mail
The rise of personal computers changed how Americans communicate. In the 1970s, the microprocessor allowed computers to evolve from slow, room-sized machines to smaller units that could be set up in the home. Personal computers started appearing in the mid to late 1970s, initially as glorified typewriters, or word processors. By the mid-1980s, nearly 10% of US homes had a computer. Computer ownership rose to 50% by 2000 and nearly 80% by 2015. With the rise of personal computers came the expansion of the internet and email. Although computer use, both email and electronic transfer of funds, were predicted to contribute to the demise of the US Postal Service back in 1976, the volume of first-class mail continued to rise through 2001 and total postal deliveries rose through 2006.
The Webster Herald, begun in 1899, remains the only local paper dedicated to Webster town and village news.
Telephone and Internet
In 1970, Webster telephones were part of the Rochester Telephone Corporation. A Supreme Court decision in the mid-1970s allowed customers to attach their own telephone equipment to “Rochester Tel” lines, reducing company revenue. In an effort to remain financially secure and prepare for the future, Rochester Tel spun off two subsidiaries (Rotelcom and RCI) and expanded its coverage out of the Rochester area by buying up distant exchanges in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Fiber optic lines were run between Rochester and other major cities. Rochester Telephone reorganized itself as Frontier in 1995.
In January 1975, Rochester Telephone opened the first electronic call switching center in the Rochester area on Phillips Road in Webster. This central switching office served Xerox and surrounding areas. An older “dial office” at 833 Ridge Road serviced the rest of the Webster area. Frontier continues to have a physical presence in Webster, with corporate offices in the old Rochester Telephone building at 833 Ridge Road.
In the 1980s, the cordless phone became widely available. No longer tethered to the coiled handset of the wall-mounted or desk-style phone, callers could walk around while talking, as long as they stayed within range of their “base unit.” Early models were prone to problems, because of limited range and interference by other appliances, especially microwave ovens. Newer phones with dedicated frequencies eliminated many of these problems.
In addition to telephone service, Rochester Tel offered a new way of communicating – access to the internet. By the late 1980s, the World Wide Web (www) became available, connecting computers, via a telephone line and modem, and an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Frontier was an early provider of “dial-up” internet service. Browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Netscape made navigation on “the web” easy for casual computer users. Chat services such as ICQ and AIM allowed users to send a message, using a registered UserName, and get an instant response back. As more people acquired computers, web pages became more detailed and sophisticated, and available information expanded exponentially, the telephone modem became unbearably slow. In the late 1990s, Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology allowed the transmission of digital information rapidly, over existing telephone lines. Cable TV also expanded into broadband internet, giving many Webster households a choice of cable or DSL for internet access. As most households now have internet-capable devices and streaming media services, more internet bandwidth is needed. Fiber optic services (Verizon FIOS and Greenlight) are linking Webster homes at speeds and capabilities not imagined back in the 1980s.
An offshoot of internet usability appeared in the mid to late 1990s as Voice Over IP (VoIP) – a free or inexpensive way to make long-distance calls using an internet connection and a headset or handset phone connected to a computer. Skype and later Facetime further enhanced communications by introducing video chat – 2-way audio/video communication between users seated in front of computers or tablets with cameras and speaker or headphone capability.
As cordless phones became more popular, another device began to enter the communication array – the cellular, or mobile, phone. The first mobile phone call was made in 1973 on a device weighing almost 2.5 lbs. This phone had a talk time of 30 minutes and took almost 10 hours to recharge. The first commercially available mobile phone was sold in 1983 by Motorola. Cell phone technology progressed rapidly, creating smaller phones with longer usage time between charges, faster recharge, and enhanced features. Smartphones (mobile phone – personal computer hybrids) began to appear in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As cell phones became more reasonably priced, reliable, and useful, landline use began to dwindle. By 2015, the number of US households with only cellular phone service exceeded the number of households with only landline service.
Prior to November 2001, Rochester and Buffalo shared the 716 area code. The burgeoning use of unique phone numbers, due to computer modems and cell phones, created a shortage of available phone numbers. By August 2002, Webster and the rest of the greater Rochester area saw their area code change to 585.
Along with phone and internet enhancements, cable TV became popular in the 1970s. Webster’s information channel, Cable 12, became an official department of the Town of Webster in January 1993. WCAT (Webster Cable Access TV) broadcasts town meetings and public interest information. Additionally, Webster Schools broadcast information for students and parents on another dedicated channel.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and others are as ubiquitous today as the telephone was in 1975. Social media programs are computer-based, information-sharing platforms. Legitimate news, as well as hoaxes, rapidly spread through the ever-expanding mesh of interconnected individuals. Webster currently has several community Facebook pages, devoted to neighbors helping neighbors, sharing news and recommendations. Webster Police and fire departments, and both the Town and Village of Webster, use Facebook to share information with Webster residents.
- USPS Postage Rates and Historical Statistics
- US Census Bureau – Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2015
- GAO Summary of Observations on Postal Service Operations From July 1971 to January 1976
- Frontier Corporation History
- Wikipedia – Frontier Communications
- The History of Mobile Phones From 1973 To 2008: The Cellphones That Made It ALL Happen
- Past issues of The Webster Herald reviewed for local history and dates