There was a time when using the telephone meant picking up the receiver and talking to an operator who would make the connection for you. There was no dial or buttons to push and there was a good chance the operator would listen in if it sounded like anything interesting was being discussed.
The technology, as it always does, continued to advance and the day eventually arrived when telephones had rotary dials that allowed you to make the connection yourself. Apparently there were some folks who had trouble mastering this new system so helpful film clips were created and shown in local theaters to explain the process:
It’s interesting to note the relative brevity of the number used in the clip above. Initially you were limited to dialing within your local area and still had to utilize an operator to place calls further away. Direct distance dialing, what we refer to as long distance today, wasn’t introduced until 1951. Once again the phone company had a poorly-acted film to introduce the concept:
Touch Tone dialing was introduced in 1963, just four years before I was born, but we still had a few rotary phones in the house when I was a kid and it’s hard to imagine that using one was anything but intuitive. I imagine my parents must have taught me how to use it at some point, but the thought that it was complicated enough to make a film over is quite amusing.
Today it’s been so long since I’ve had a land-line that I sometimes forget what a dial tone or a busy signal sounds like. With voice mail and cellular service I can’t recall that last time I have heard either sound until I watched these clips. It’s amazing to stop for a moment and look back at how far we’ve come over the years.