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Flashback Friday: Rotary Phones

by Sean P. Aune | March 14, 2014March 14, 2014 11:00 pm PDT

Yes, there was a time before mobile phones. And there was even a time before tone dialing. Welcome to the age of the rotary phone.

To be fair, there was even a time before rotary phones, but that was the first type of phone I remember using as a kid. So I had a pretty good laugh earlier this week when someone shared the “Kids React to Rotary Phones” video from the Fine Brothers. I went digging around and found the short film you see above from 1954 for an unknown town that was just receiving rotary service. As is mentioned briefly in video, the way you would dial before that was to pick up the receiver and talk to an operator to whom you would tell the number you were looking to connect to.

The one thing I never understood is why the older numbers started with letters. Yes, I understand it was to represent the exchange, but why not just just the numbers as ##-#### instead of two letters followed by numbers? That was pretty much out of use by the time I started using phones, but I knew it existed and it always struck me as odd.

Next time you’re using your smartphone to make a call, remember just how you easy you have it. Because trust me, dialing in anger with a rotary phone sucked when your finger hit the finger stop and you dialed a little too harshly.


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Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...


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