The Strowger Automatic Telephone Switch Invented 1891. The story has it that Strowger was motivated to invent an automatic telephone exchange after having difficulties with the local telephone operators. He was said to be convinced that the local manual telephone exchange operators were sending calls to his competitor rather than his business. He also suspected that the telephone operators were influencing the choice of undertaker when his business was requested. Other stories claim that the wife or, possibly, the cousin of a rival was a telephone operator and was telling callers that his line was busy or connecting his callers to the competition.