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If you've recently made a collect call, checked your bank account balance over the phone, or left a message for someone in a large company, you may have done so without the assistance of an operator. With automation, computers, and voice synthesizers, you can now place a call directly and get all the information you need yourself, saving phone companies, and other businesses, time and money. The demand for telephone operators has dropped considerably from the days when operators were needed to physically connect and disconnect lines at a switchboard. AT&T has laid off thousands of operators in the last 20 years, but people can still find work with telecommunications companies and in corporations that handle a number of calls.