Todays Hi-Tech Video

When I was a wee child, we still had a phone without a dial. When you picked up the receiver, a pleasant woman asked, “Number, please.” Then, we got a phone with a funny wheel on the front: a dial! We were intrigued by it, and perhaps a bit unsure of how it worked. The video embedded here was the Bell System’s way of informing people how to use those newfangled dial phones. The one we got in our house was identical to the one shown in the video. The Bell System owned the phone and you leased it from them. That way, the phone company could ensure that no substandard equipment was connected to its lines, and the consumer was assured that if something went wrong, one of Ma Bell’s many children would drop by the house and swap it out for a functional phone.

Today, dial phones are almost a thing of the past. I have not seen one in use for around 20 years. When the Touch-Tone phone first came out, you had to pay extra to use it. Now everyone owns their own phone, called the landline nowadays. They all have buttons, or in the case of many mobile phones like my iPhone, virtual buttons. We have thus come full circle: most people under the age of 30 or so have never used, or even seen, a dial phone in the Bakelite…um…flesh. And “Number, please”? I am probably one of the youngest people ever to have had a non-dial, non-button phone.

Nowadays, some phones will dial a number for you if you simply speak it into the mouthpiece. In the 1950’s, I could do the same. As the Scriptures say, there is nothing new under the sun.

13 Responses to “Todays Hi-Tech Video”

  1. pugboi says:

    U were born with a golden spoon??

  2. chrishansenhome says:

    No, we were solvent but poor. My mother (RIP) used to forage in the sofa for a quarter to buy a loaf of bread. My father (also RIP) was an auto mechanic and had a steady, if low, salary. We coped. There were no golden spoons in the house.

    Our number was NEptune 1-4393. My grandmother’s number was NEptune 1-0002 as her husband (my step-grandfather) had gotten the second phone in town after the bank. He was a railroad engineer and needed the phone in case the railroad wanted him to come in to work. This would have been around 100 years ago.

  3. pugboi says:

    Well if everyone had a phone for a reason, what was Ur family’s reason and how did u guys use it?

    Thanx for sharing too 🙂

  4. chrishansenhome says:

    My step-grandfather got a phone around 1910 or so, and had a specific reason for getting it (the railroad may have even paid for it; I don’t know whether they did or not). By the time we had a phone (in the early 1950’s) you didn’t need a reason. Nearly everyone had one. We were on a party line when I first remember telephones. Occasionally I would pick up the phone when someone else was on the line, and I just listened to the voices. Very naughty of me.

    My mother called her mother nearly every day, and they talked for an hour or more. What more reason would one need to have a phone than to talk to one’s mother?

  5. momshapedbox says:

    Ours was LAurel 5-3478…my dad still has the same phone #(525-3478)

    Not too long ago before Richard’s dance teacher passes away, she had a rotary dial phone in her office in the studio. When the younger girls(aged 5-8ish) need to call their moms for rides home, she would tell them to use her office phone. Richard said you should have seen their faces coming out of the office so confused and Richard would go in and show them how to dial and keep their finger in the hole and not let go!!!

  6. pugboi says:

    Sounds so nostalgic

  7. chrishansenhome says:

    The 1950’s were a great time in the United States, except for the threat of total annihilation by thermonuclear bombs sent from the USSR. Very nostalgic! 😉

  8. henare says:

    we never had a dial-less phone (i’m too young for that) but i was onto gaming the rotary dial as a kid. stepmom used to lock the phone to control the phone bill, and i figured out that tripping the “1” relay eight times quickly was just like dialing the 8 directly …

    i also figured out international direct dial quickly … and started to dial random numbers to try to talk to people (this was before i understood that not everyone spoke english … the french people on tv all spoke english, just with funny accents!) that didn’t go over well …

  9. chrishansenhome says:

    I guess I was too inhibited to try things like that. I can imaging the hiding I would have gotten had I dialled an international number.

    My whole family believes that international calls are so expensive that they cannot bear to make one unless there is a death in the family. My dad never mastered the knack of making an international call. As his father was born in Scotland, that might explain it.

  10. chrishansenhome says:

    I am fairly sure that few people under 25 have ever used a rotary dial phone.

    But from the two comments I’ve gotten I may post a more general entry about our childhood phone numbers.

  11. trawnapanda says:

    now in the UK, the way you remembered it was slightly different – the first three digits were alphabetically-remembered. We were BARnet 8236; our neighbours on the party line were BARnet 9470.

    The Battersea Dogs Home’s phone number was BATtersea 8236. We got some interesting wrong numbers, people desperate to know if Fido had been found. But (even today) phone numbers in the UK do not have a standard length. My sister’s phone number in Preston, Lancs is six digits long, not seven; but when she was first married (and living in a rather small village), her phone number was WILstead 437.

    I lived in London, so it was (marginally) more techno-advanced than Marblehead MA, so even though I’m more-or-less ‘s age, we never had an operator speak to us automatically. You picked up the (bakelite) receiver, and there was silence. To get a dial tone, there was a button front-and-centre above the dial labelled “call exchange” — I spoze initially that would have summoned the operator, but by the time I got to use a phone, it gave you a dial tone.

  12. trawnapanda says:

    there’s a scene in the 1997 Kevin Kline movie In and Out, set in the fictional tiny town of Greenleaf, Indiana. One of the local graduates (played by Matt Dillon) is a famous movie star, and comes back to visit Greenleaf with his supermodel girlfriend, Sonya. They stay at a local motel, and Sonya tries to make a phone call – with a (turquoise) rotary dial phone. She’s confused, and tries pushing at the finger-holes. Very funny – for those of us who have used rotary dials.

  13. chrishansenhome says:

    There are moves afoot to try to standardise phone numbers here, but not much has been done about it lately. London numbers are standardised at 020 7xxx xxxx or 020 8xxx xxxx, corresponding to 071 xxx xxxx or 081 xxx xxxx and then 0171 xxx xxxx or 0181 xxx xxxx, and previous to those 01 xxx xxxx. NHS numbers in London are 020 3xxx xxxx.

    Some people would KILL nowadays to pick up the phone and actually talk to a real live person. We were ahead of our times in Marblehead.