The “1-900” number was a short-lived icon of adult entertainment before the advent of the internet. It connected sex workers to sexy sex sexpots who were ready for hot, pay-per minute chats. OperatorWondery’s new podcast, “The Eight-Episode Podcast”, gives listeners an insight into this outmoded, but once innovative, industry.

Tina Horn is the author. Operator revolves around American Telnet (ATN), a Florida-based company that dominated the nascent phone sex world in the 1990s. Interviews with ATN employees and executives. Operator explores the fun, sexy, and innovative parts of the business as well as ATN’s internal power struggles, the stigma staffers faced, and the attacks the industry received from activists, journalists, lawmakers, and bureaucrats.

ATN was like most sex tech companies today. It provided decent, stable incomes to its employees while making its executives wealthy and angering politicians and regulators. The phone sex industry, like other popular digital-age firms that facilitate fantasies with their money, had to cope with problems processing payments, “think of children” hand wringing within the mainstream media and an incessant struggle to keep one step ahead government meddling.