On 02/12/2016 03:43 AM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Sometime back around 1968 I called a friend... on the East coast... from
a pay phone. The operator would have me put in a quarter every three
minutes or something like that until I eventually ran out of change.
When I ran out, she told me that I could complete my conversation at
which time I was informed that I owed a dollar and when I got the proper
change all I had to do was dial "operator" and ask for #23, tell her who
I was and then deposit what I owed.
What interesting times those were. My guess is that if I never "paid up"
they would have reversed the charge, I don't know.
On Friday, February 12, 2016 at 6:58:34 AM UTC-5, philo wrote:
Back around that time we used to make "free" collect calls.
If you wanted to let someone back home know that you had arrived at your destination
or pass along some other pre-arranged piece of information, you could initiate a
collect call through the operator. When the party on the receiving end would be asked
if they would accept the charges, they would just say "No."
Since it was all prearranged, the collect call itself passed along the information.
Yep, we did stuff like that all the time. Once when we went to Chicago,
a friend of mine called home just to let his mother know all was OK.
He also tried to get a message through by talking. but the phone company
knew enough to have audio off until paid for
In the early 80's, I was in a little town in Southern CO (Florence).
I called home (east coast) from a pay phone (as calling from the
home of the folks I was staying with would have passed the cost
onto them!). Of course, parents seem to like to talk for long
periods of time, saying little -- oblivious to the fact that I'm
standing on the side of the road calling from "nowhere".
Periodically, the operator would come on the line to tell me to
deposit another $3 (or so).
The first time I did this (to initiate the call), the solenoid that
transfers the monies from the "holding area" (from which they can
easily be RETURNED to the caller) to the "cash box" appeared to
malfunction; returning the coins to *me* instead!
Even more pleasant was that the next request for $3 resulted in the
same behavior. And, the one after that! (did I mention that parents
like to talk for a long time??) I just kept taking the coins out
of the coin return and redepositing them!
So, the call cost me nothing.
Next day, I drove by that same phone booth and, on a whim, tried
again. <grin> Same "problem" as the day before!
I did this for the better part of a week.
Until, one day, the activation of the solenoid resulted in the
coins being *accepted*. It was a very sad sound! :-(
I don't think they can legally do that -- though that might not
stop them from trying!
In school, we would "discover" unrestricted telephone "extensions"
in unusual places -- phones from which '9' got you a "regular"
phone line that wasn't limited to local calls only. We'd venture
out with small groups and take turns making calls.
If you were smart, you'd only call people that you knew were "cool"
with the whole concept!
Friend opted to call his grandparents in Germany (!) Eventually,
someone trying to sort out who was making all these long distance
calls (from this very "off the beaten track" telephone) opted
to call some of the numbers.
"Oh, hello! Our grandson goes to your school! He's such a NICE boy..."
Way back a million years ago when for my job, they gave me a pager
I was in a hospital waiting room...
This was a time when one could just go the the emergency room if one was
unable to get an immediate appoint with one's own doctor
(turned out there was nothing wrong with me)
Anyway I had to call someone in Mexico so just used the phone they had
sitting there and called straight through. I was expecting to be asked
for my company's credit card number...but that never happened.
You can still do that. Expect to wait a VERY long time (unless triaged
as a "priority case") and pay a VERY large sum! :>
In the 70's, the phone company "credit cards" (calling cards) used a
simple checksum to verify the integrity of the "calling card number".
I.e., when you called the operator and asked to charge a call to
a particular calling card, the operator (or, some software she had)
would perform this simple checksum to determine what the "check digit"
for the number *should* be. If it did NOT match the number you
presented, then the charge would be declined.
But, if it *did* match, the charge would be accepted and the call
So, you could fabricate arbitrary calling card numbers -- by knowing
the checksum algorithm. Of course, this was to be a TPC secret!
But, conveniently, was published by certain "underground" groups
(e.g., TAP, 2600).
The same groups who gave us Black, Red, Blue and Green "boxes"...
[Amusingly, you could "detune" an organ (musical instrument) to create
a nice 2600Hz -- from something around E or F 7 (I'd have to do the math)]
Though it was not a hospital emergency room, it was one of those
immediate care facilities. One weekend I freaked out because I went deaf
in one ear so went in.
It was just wax, which he cleaned out in five minutes then billed my
They refused to pay unless he lowered the bill to $400!
I think I had $250 deducatble
Never knew that one, but had a company calling card so never would have
pay from my own pocket.
Though I never knew anyone who built one of those boxes, I was amazed
that the whole thing was just controlled by tone. Always figured it was
something more complicated.
Supposedly there were people who could whistle correctly to get a free call.
If you think about it, it is not surprising!
Ages ago, when you placed a call, you had a pair of wires from your
handset to the callee's handset -- with TPC sitting in the middle.
The wires were intended to carry voice signals so had limited
bandwidth -- typically only about 3KHz in the "speech" band.
So, any "information" transferred down those wires had to similarly
be constrained to the same band!
TPC couldn't put "notch filters" on subscriber lines because that
would muck with the speech signals from those subscribers. And,
they weren't paranoid enough to realize folks WOULD take advantage
of the "open channel" to mimic their switching equipment's operations!
[This is all too common in western society's; we ASSUME people won't
do bad things, and, as such, take no measures to prevent them from
happening -- then act surprised when someone exploits these lapses!
Cockpit doors on aircraft, electrical substations "protected" by
little more than a chain link fence, water treatment facilities
protected by a KEEP OUT sign, internet protocols having NO provisions
for security/authentication, etc.]
At school, it was rumored that all TPC phone lines requested by students
(identifiable by their installation address) were kept on a single
exchange that had traps to watch for such abuses -- a few thousand
engineers clustered in one spot seemed to be too high a risk for TPC
to ignore! :>
[Indeed, a friend was once phoned by The Operator and asked to please
"Press 1" as they were doing a "line check". Despite being woken
from a sound sleep, my friend realized he should reach for the *dial*
phone and DIAL '1' -- instead of PRESSING '1' on the TouchTone phone
(for which he was not paying TouchTone service rates! :> ) Hard
to imagine The Operator calling everyone in town and asking that
A classmate vacationing (somewhere) in Europe used to call us
and talk for a few minutes -- "until his hand got tired/cramped".
Apparently, the pay phones (wherever) were susceptible to static
electric charges. He'd flick his pzieoelectric cigarette lighter
repeatedly causing a little "spark" to confuse the computer in
the pay phone. Doing this repeatedly allowed him to keep the
connection open indefinitely -- or, at least until his hand got
tired! (it's actually VERY hard to do, for any length of time!)
Yes. And, the little yellow/red whistles given away in boxes of "Cap'n Crunch"
cereal coincidentally were tuned to 2600Hz (maybe the Cap'n was a phreaker?)
One day I was in an office and saw a lock on a dial phone to prevent
Although I had no need to make a call, just to see if I could do it,
when I got home I decided to call a friend by not using a dial at all,
merely by clicking the button on the phone.
Possibly because I was a Ham radio operator and good with Morse code, I
had little trouble with the higher numbers.
Yes, by lifting the reciever (going "off hook") you complete the circuit
to the CO. The (old) dialer works by momentarily interrupting the circuit
(essentially, going ON hook for a brief time -- the same as "hanging up")
some number of times corresponding to the digit being dialed.
So, dial a '1' and it interrupts the circuit for ONE brief instant.
Dial a '2' and it interrupts for TWO brief instants.
The time between "interruptions" is controlled by the rate at
which the dial "returns" (when you pull your finger out and
let it "do its thing").
If you, instead, deliberately SLOW the rate of its return, you
will effectively "misdial" (because the CO doesn't "see" all
of the remaining interruptions for that particular digit in the
allotted time) and/or DISCONNECT the call (if you manage to stop
the dial exactly at the point where it is opening the circuit...
"going on hook"/hanging up!)
E.g., you can do a "hook flash" on dial phones just by dialing '1'
(instead of tapping the hook momentarily)
Likewise, you can make a "hold button" just by connecting a
resistor (600 ohms?) across the line (tip-ring). It simulates
the "load" represented by a phone. So, looks (to TPC) like
you've just picked up another extension. At that point, you
can hang up the *real* phone, walk to another room and pick
up another extension to continue the conversation.
If you arrange to use a SPDT switch (like a "three way" light
switch), you can put a switch in each location that lets the resistor
be switched in/out from either end:
- flip the first switch (to whatever position it is NOT in)
- hang up first phone
- pick up second phone
- flip second switch (to disconnect the resistor switched in by first!)
- hang up second phone when done with call
Only yesterday I happened upon a YouTube video dealing with the design
of the telephone number pad. The current layout was chosen after
extensive investigation of users' preferences and accuracy.
The first (electronic) product that I designed had a numeric keypad.
We had to think long and hard about whether our customers (fishermen)
would be more accustomed to using a "touch tone phone" (1970's)
or a "digital calculator" -- as they most definitely wouldn't have
had any other exposure to keypads (no microwave ovens, personal
Likewise, we had to consider whether '6's and '9's should have "tails":
(and, just because one of them has/hasn't, doesn't mean the *other*
And you don't want to consider the amount of thought and effort that
comes into designing a *typeface* (aka "font")!
I'm not sure. Which users do they want to slow down: folks dialing the
phone (not sure anything short of a bizarre ordering like 3954286107
would have much effect) or folks entering values for computations?
AFAICT, it may have just been different approaches to the problem by
different types of designers.
I always wondered why WE telephone handsets were so damn uncomfortable.
You'd think they would want that to just *melt* into your ear so you'd
run up all sorts of (usage) charges!
On Friday, February 12, 2016 at 11:54:13 AM UTC-5, philo wrote:
Simple to do...I used to do it all the time just for fun.
Here's another phone trick I used to use when I was young, but this
was a trick I pulled on my parents.
My parents weren't helicopter parents by any stretch of the imagination,
but they were concerned about my well being and life choices, as all
parents should be. While they wouldn't actually stop me from going out
just to go out, they would rather that I had a destination and reason
for going out, especially at night.
"I'm going bowling with Mark." was much better than:
"I'm going out."
"I don't know, I'll see who's around."
To keep the peace, I'd go down to the basement and use the extension to
call that "ring back" number. By the time I'd hung up and walked back up
the stairs to the kitchen, the phone would be ringing.
"Hello? Hey Mark, what's up?...Bowling? Sure. What time?...OK, I'll be
"Hey Mom, that was Mark. We're going bowling."
"OK, have fun."
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.