I watch a lot of old movies from the 50s and 60s. I never understand
why it is, when those old rotary dial phones would not work, or
someone hangs up, the person on the phone would keep hitting the
buttons that normally hang up the phone (under the handset). Is this
just a theatrical thing, or did people really do that, and if they
did, why? It seems stupid because all it does is repeatedly hangup
and get the dialtone. But maybe back then there was a reason.
Actually I know that those rotary phones actually made a series of
clicks in the wires, so maybe there was a reason???
Tapping the cradle buttons does not hang up the phone. They must remain
depressed for about two seconds. Rapidly depressing the buttons flashes the
light on the operator's switchboard.
Actually, you can dial a number by tapping the hand-set buttons. The clicks
are the same as the stepping switch inside the instrument. If you force the
dial, you'll get the wrong number inasmuch as the clicks are time sensitive.
On Sun, 20 Mar 2011 05:01:35 -0600, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
It got the operator's attention. Girl is sitting in front of a
huge board - a light on, or a light off is her cue. If one starts
flashing, it will get her attention quicker. [I think there was an
audible sometimes, too-- I've had annoyed operators tell me to stop
'flashing the hook'.]
I don't remember the contacts failing on those old 500 phones, but
that was also a way to make sure they were 'loose'.
You could dial a number with those clicks. Each click was a digit-
pause a couple seconds between numbers.
In many cases, it was the buttons getting jammed in the holes in the
cradle. In filthy environments, grit (or something sticky) would
sometimes get down in there, and those early plastics would sometimes
gall, or the pivot point inside would be totally gummed up. I've
repaired more than one old phone for people, back in the day, by
field-stripping it, and washing all the plastic parts in sink or
dishwasher, and using electronic cleaner on the internal moving parts.
Some of my trashpicked/salvaged/garage sale phones were so filthy I
brought them home in a plastic bag, but unless they were actually rusty
inside, I could usually bring them back to life. Unlike modern
throw-away phones, those old WE 500/2500s were designed for a
several-decade service life. There are ones older than I am still in
Old phones were certainly built to last - I had a couple when I lived in
England, one from the 1960s and one from the 1940s (a GPO 706 and 164)
that were still working.
One day I'll ship them over to the US and see if I can get them working
with the US system (I'm not sure to what extent US exchanges still
emulate the old strowger-type exchanges - and then there'd probably be
some screwing around with some of the internal components to do, but I
think "in theory" it might be possible to get them to work)
I have one in the basement. It still has the shoulder rest that my
mother liked. Much easier to have both hands free. But the rubber
about 10 or 20 years ago turned into a very viscous liquid. Much of
it moved 1/4 inch, exposing very white parts that were in the middle
of the sheet of rubber, and a little dripped off the edge. But this
all stopped, maybe because it's in the basement now where it never
gets over 70.
I remember that. Also, when I moved to a small town in 1988, they still had
an old mechanical exchange with a translator device for tone dialing. I
would call a local number:
(yes, we dialed 5 digits for local calls. That was until the new ESS
exchange was put in in the early 1990s)
and it would take a long time to connect, while you could hear:
Hey, this is the same situation when I lived in Flagstaff, AZ (until
1989). There were two old exchanges, 774- and 779-, which allowed you to
drop the first two digits and dial 4-xxxx or 9-xxxx. I guess this was a
common feature at that time in the U.S.
What small town were you in?
The phrase "jump the shark" itself jumped the shark about a decade ago.
On 3/21/2011 8:48 PM, email@example.com wrote:
Yes, when I was in PA I had to dial all 10 numbers for all calls. But
it's actually easier than here in TN. Down here certain numbers in the
same area code may or may not require a 1 plus area code. I still say
if the phone system is smart enough to tell me I should or should not
have dialed a 1 plus the area code, then it's smart enough to just
connect me the first try either way I dialed it!
I thought of that when I got that error message when (I forgot why) I had
dialed a 1 before a local call. I would have thought it would cost them (the
phone company) less to connect the call than the message-playing equipment.
Some regulatory agencies or state/local laws mandate that the phone
company require the "1" before a toll call, so you know you're being
charged extra. That extends sometimes to 10/11-digit dialing (10
digits if the call is in your local/free area, 1 required if not).
Probably made more sense when even an in-state long distance call
could be many tens of cents a minute...
Henderson, Texas (between Tyler and Shreveport LA). At one time, all the
local phone numbers were (214) 657 - xxxx. Now there are too many people,
and cell phones. Exchanges now include 655, and at least 239, 646, 658, 720,
722 for cell phones. Also, the area code has changed, 214 is just around
Well into at least the 1980's, we used to have to pay *extra* for
touch-tone dialing (about $1/month) -- and we lived in a bigh high-tech
Northeast city! It was considered a luxury feature.
Interestingly, touch tone dialing was often on by default (without
charge) back in the days when you had to rent equipment from the phone
company. But if you somehow added your own touch tone phone, they would
eventually detect it and either start charging you or actually shut off
Of course, this had everything to do with marketing and nothing to do
with actual marginal cost since once the technology was installed it
probably was cheaper to connect a touch-tone call than a rotary call.
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