Skip to comments.The day that began touch-tone dialing
Posted on 11/18/2013 4:43:26 AM PST by Vigilanteman
Long before smartphones and text messages made the world instantly available with a split-second tap, reaching out to touch someone could take a full 10 seconds.
That was just to dial a number, ticked out one deliberate digit at a time, on a mechanical wheel owned by the phone company.
Monday marks 50 years since the United States began saying goodbye to the classic rotary phone, replaced by touch-tone services that slashed dialing time and foreshadowed a digital revolution that keeps reshuffling everyday communication.
The push-buttons became an especially big deal in Western Pennsylvania, where Carnegie and Greensburg were first in the country to see complete rollouts of the optional upgrade in November 1963.
Bell Telephone Co. customers could pay $1.50 a month for the pleasure and convenience of touch-tone, according to newspaper reports at the time.
All of the many things we can do by phone without interacting with a human got an awful lot easier with the touch-tone, said Jon Peha, a professor in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. The introduction allowed you to interact with automated systems on the other end in an easy way.
Although the pound and star keys would not appear until 1968, the first 10-button sets largely resembled the keypads used on billions of mobile and other phones worldwide. The Tribune-Review described the touch-tone approach as space-age telephony of missile-like speed and musical tones when Greensburg phone users tested the technology in early 1961.
(Excerpt) Read more at triblive.com ...
Yeah, I know it is insensitive. But the beginning of this week is the 50th anniversary of another event that changed America even more than the one at the end of the week.
And we got it first here in SW Pennsylvania, the place where other significant inventions debuted, including penicillin, the Ferris Wheel, the Big Mac and the banana split.
It was cumbersome, but you could actually dial back then without the dial....just push the or holder up and down fast enough and it would dial the ‘number’.....
bump (or is it beep?)
I wonder does rotary dial phones still work on land lines?
Or use a demon dialer.
This was to minimize the pulse dialing overhead that would tie up the long distance lines without providing revenue.
Hence, NYC was 5 clicks, LA/Chicago 6 clicks, and Hawaii/Alaska 26 clicks.
Also, I remember a trick where if you inverted the first three digits of your own phone number and then dialed the next four, you would make your own phone ring. I don't think that works anymore but in the 1970s, it did work and I would fake getting phone calls. Can't remember what value that provided but as a kid, it seemed pretty cool.
Prank phone calls were big in the 1970s. That was before people at home had caller ID so you could have all kinds of fun without getting caught.
The first patent for a rotary dial was filed by Almon Brown Strowger on December 21, 1891, which was awarded to him on November 29, 1892 as U.S. Patent 486,909. The early forms of a rotary dial used lugs on a finger plate instead of holes and the pulse train was generated without the control of spring action or a governor on the forward movement of the wheel, which proved to be difficult to operate correctly. The commonly known appearance of the rotary dial with finger holes was first introduced in 1904 but did not enter service in the Bell System in the United States until 1919, when AT&T abandoned its determined reliance on manual exchanges, and embraced automatic switching.
From the 1960s onward, the rotary dial was gradually supplanted by dual-tone multi-frequency push-button dialing, first introduced to the public at the 1962 World’s Fair (Seattle, WA) under the trade name Touch-Tone®. Touch-tone technology primarily used a keypad in form of a rectangular array of push-buttons for dialing.
From as early as 1836 onward, various suggestions and inventions of dials for sending telegraph signals were reported. After the first commercial telephone exchange was installed in 1878, the need for an automated, user-controlled method of directing a telephone call became apparent. Addressing the technical shortcomings, Almon Brown Strowger inventing a telephone dial in 1891. Before 1891, numerous competing inventions, and 26 patents for dials, push-buttons, and similar mechanisms, specified methods of signalling a destination telephone station that a subscriber wanted to call. Most inventions involved costly, intricate mechanisms and required the user to perform complex manipulations.
The first commercial installation of a telephone dial accompanied the first commercial installation of a 99-line automatic telephone exchange in La Porte, Indiana in 1892, which was based on the 1891 Strowger designs. The original dials required complex operational sequences and development continued during the 1890s and early 1900s in conjunctions with improvements in switching technology.
In the 1950s, plastic materials were introduced in dial construction, replacing metal which was heavier and subject to higher wear.
Despite their lack of modern features, rotary phones occasionally find special uses. For instance, the anti-drug Fairlawn Coalition of the Anacostia section of Washington, D.C. persuaded the phone company to reinstall rotary-dial pay phones in the 1980s to discourage loitering by drug purchasers, since the dials could not be used to call dealers’ pagers. They are also retained for authenticity in historic properties such as the U.S. Route 66 Blue Swallow Motel which date from an era of named exchanges and pulse dialling.
Rotary Dialer Free - Android Apps on Google Play
Rotary Dialer on the App Store on iTunes
Yes, you can use them on today’s phone system! Legacy system.
Here’s the batphone being dialed to Commissioner Gordon!
In the 1960s, our phone in rural Iowa was on a party line. There was a crank handle on the phone to ring the attention of the operator.
So you’re the one who wore the numbers off the face.
Dialing Tips circa 1950 American Telephone & Telegraph - Bell System
1954 How to dial your phone by Bell System
Direct Distance Dialing circa 1959 Southwestern Bell Telephone Company
AT&T Archives: Seeing the Digital Future (1961)
AT&T Archives: Switchboards, Old and New (Bonus Edition)
Many people may know that the DTMF tones (the “beeps” you hear when you punch the buttons) are copyrighted by the phone company. What you may not know is that the dial tone, the busy signal, and the off-hook alarm are also copyrighted.
And on an old rotary phone, you could dial a number subtractively. If you wanted to dial a 4 for instance, you could put your finger in the 7 hole and move it to 3. Or 9 to 5. Etc.. The system worked by counting the number of pulses as the dialing wheel passed a sensor, so it didn’t care how those pulses were sent. Which also enabled a user to simply click the hangup buttons a specific number of times in rapid sequence to effect the dialing of a number.
Yes, but WE remember using smoke signals and carrier pigeons and primordial conch shells.
Few people notice that they are still being charged for the “extra service” of touch tone dialing. You got to love AT&T.
Once in a while you’ll hear some recording or a person trying to route a call say “please dial one” or “please dial the operator”.
Yep. It was actually cheaper to provide Touch Tone dialing then it was Rotary dialing, but they continued to charge extra for it.