When A Star Wars Hotline Broke AT&T

If you suffer under the yoke of AT&T, and enjoy tales of their suffering, this will cheer you up: back when Empire Strikes Back launched, an automated call-in line designed to market the movie broke part of the network.

How? This was 1980, and the technology for that sort of stuff just wasn’t there yet.

The plan was simple: stars of the film recorded a short piece of dialogue (some hilariously half-assed), fans could call a number and hear that message, free of charge.

In reality, though, AT&T’s network couldn’t cope with the demand, and in some places just… fell over. A former of Lucasfilm’s fan relations explains:

…the first week the system went live, so many people called the number, AT&T couldn’t handle it. They were so overloaded, the system couldn’t even handle generating busy signals to all of the calls. The 800 system for Illinois crashed and shut down for several hours. AT&T insisted that we add additional phone lines and issue a press release taking the blame for it. Weep wail. Poor us. We contritely agreed to issue a press release to all media saying we were sorry that Star Wars fans were so eager to get information on the sequel that wouldn’t be out for five months, their calls overwhelmed the phone company. And you could call yourself, now that we’d increased the number of phone lines, and listen to the messages [at the number]. The story, of course, got covered everywhere. Best publicity we could have had.

Fascinating. You can listen to all the recordings yourself in the video up top.

In 1980, the Star Wars Cast’s ‘Empire Hotline’ Broke AT&T [Motherboard]


  • Harrison Ford literally phoned in his performance, much like return of the jedi and Indy 4.

  • This shows the importance of having good connections. I hope that the liberal party take heed of this message and keep FTTH instead of moving to FTTN and using the rapidly failing copper network for the jump between node and home

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