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Poll: Have you ever used a rotary phone?

Yes I had one in my house 41 (73%)
Yes but I never had one 13 (23%)
No 2 (4%)
   Discussion: Rotary Phones
Gordondon son of Ethelred · 18 years, 4 months ago
Here's a poll to make me feel old. I remember the first time I saw a touch tone phone it was being demonstrated at teh 1964-65 World's Fair.
Snow In Summer Back · 18 years, 4 months ago

don't feel too old, my family had one until I was um... 13 (around 1990)? it was an avacado-coloured wall-mounted phone.

side note: I still can't get my mom to understand her cell phone... and I work in customer service for the company.

Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
I still have a rotary princess phone in my basement. It looks almost exactly like this:

Yvonne Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
I have one on my bedside table! They're so cute. :D
Brian Dinsky Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
heh, as someone who also works in the wireless industry, i have a hard time ignoring the humor present in the suggestion that a CSR can't explain something.

no offense but it's damn funny :)
Snow In Summer Back · 18 years, 4 months ago

dood... you've obviously never had a customer who has no intention of ever learning how to dial *86, remembering their passwordor following prompts. oh, yeah... did I mention that it's my mother?

it's kinda like trying to explain the finer points of bittorrent to your 80 year old grandmother. try it sometime...

you must be in sales. :-P

Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
I used to be my boss's unofficial tech support for her computer. One day when I was at home and busy she called me and asked me how to write a letter on the computer stationary. I told her to go to Word and open the file called "letterhead."

Boss: I can't find it.
Me: hit the icon that looks like a file folder and it will open a window with all the files in it.
Boss: I see [starts reading names of files]
Me: they are in alphabetical order
Boss: They aren't
Me: OK click on where it says "file name" and it will put them in alphabetical order
Boss: I did, they are in order
Me: Ok then go to the file letterhead
Boss: I don't see it. I see [reads off list of files]
Me: OK get someone who knows the alphabet to find it. I'm hanging up.
Me: Click
That's a highly edited version. I was on the phone half an hour with her.
Agent Scully Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
That is my life 5 days per week for 8.0 hours. :\

I would love to tell these people " learn to read and use your computer first...or pack it up and send it back to Dell."

Brian Dinsky Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
heh. yes, i'm in sales. additionally, i'm also a qualified tech support dude man.

and i definitely know both sides of the story. i'm not suggesting that CSRs dont know what they are doing, but moreso that a reasonable percentage of them don't.

all of my friends know that i have a rule regarding tech support to which i adhere very strictly:

if you have a problem, you can go about obtaining my help in one of two ways. if you have tried to solve your own problem, but failed, i will be more than happy to assist. if, however, you came straight to me instead of at least TRYING to fix it, or even doing any amount of research, i will still assist, but i will give you a fair amount of negative attitude for likely the entire time.

i dont enjoy being mean to them, but

i agree, most people dont want to learn how to fix something, they just want you to do it for them. i make people pay attention while i'm fixing stuff, and if my help falls into the latter catagory of my rule, you are gunna get WAY more information than you ever wanted. that seems to teach people to at least try.

and for what it's worth, i will gladly give up a high commision sale (or any, for that matter) if i don't believe the person needs what they think they need. i refuse to lie to customers to any extent. i guess you could call me one of the very few NICE radio shack 'salesmen'. i hate salesmen. har.

the probem with technology is that the 10% of the people that know what they are doing end up spending way too much of their time teaching the other 90% how to get by. numbers obviously not to scale.

dontcha worry, i'm totally on the good side. i didn't mean to badmouth CSRs :-) I deal with them on a very regular basis.

i'm sure i've got more on the topic, but i gotta go!
Agent Scully Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Try to teach someone via a chat tech medium how to:

clear cookies and cache
"how do I send an email?"
"how do I forward something to my friends?"
And the all time favorite ----- COPY and PASTE!

I'm not sure where the line is drawn between teaching them the computer or technical support of their connection.

Oh yes...the "thanks for nothing" CSR and TSRs receive is from people who do not want to learn but want you to come over and do it for them.

[mumbling about internet technical support tomorrow...damn job]
Songbill Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Didn't Bell used to own the phones themselves?
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Yes they did, you just rented the phones which lasted forever.
A.J. · 18 years, 4 months ago
A better question might be "who remembers when phone numbers were given out as a 2 letter exchange and 5 numbers?" I'm shocked that I can remember that. It seems like the stone age. (Of course my mom can remember having to talk to the operator to place a call, and she's only 64).

When I lived in a dorm ('83-'85) we still had the wall phones that had been installed when the dorm was upgraded from hallway phonebooths (I'm guessing sometime in the 1950s, because our phones had metal dials). Anyway, when Friday or Saturday night would roll around and we wanted to go to a movie, it was often very hard to get through to the theater's info line, because it was a one-at-a-time thing, of course, and everybody was calling. So we used to engage in this ritual of dialing and re-dialing over and over continuously until we would get through. Let me tell you, with a rotary phone, that got tiring pretty fast. :)
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
I certainly had that. In New York it should have been phased out before I was born though. They used up all the could abbreviations. One of my phone numbers was a BAside 4 number which is fine since we lived in Bayside. The other was FAculty 1 which made no sense. They just made word using the letter on 3 and 2.

I miss that number, it was 321-0122. They got rid of the exchange and It was changed. That was so easy to remember.
dave "buh" Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
When I worked across the street from the New York Public Library, a storefront near us had their phone number printed outside, as "RE5-5555". "RE" for ....? Lets see if you New Yorkers know a bit of trivia! :-)

Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
The only manhattan exchange I knew was MUrray Hill. They would always say that on the ads for Gimbels. What would start with RE near the library?

I looked at the Search for Exchanges site and it wasn't listed.
dave "buh" Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Gordon I thought you were exactly the kind of esoteric trivia buff who'd know that right off.

I'll give a hint. The library wasn't always there.
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
dave "buh" Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
here's what the site of the library looked like in 1850

I guess naming the exchange Reservoir was sort of a history buff's joke from the "Phone Company" back in the day.
A.J. Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
So a lot of your exchanges were actually keyed to place names? Wow. All the ones I remember were seemingly random. Our phone number was LIncoln-5-6693. My grandmother was MIdwest-4-6583, my other grandparents were TUxedo-5-6693. Other exchanges here included MAyfair (not the name of a city) and TYler.

I recognize MUrray Hill because it is heard in a lot of old movies and such.
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Originally they were all keyed to place names. The problem was that there were only a limited number of exchanged available and they had to start assigning random words.

OK here's a good trivia question. In old movies when they gave a phone number it was usually the same exchange. What was it? Abbot and Costello had a lot of fun with it. Hint: there was a real reason they used it and that reason affects the numbers they give in films today.
A.J. Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Ok I cheated a little. I knew the exchange had to use 2 of the 3 letters JKL because the numbers had to be 555 so that they couldn't be a real number. I was kind of stumped about what exchange name could start with those two consonants, so I googled "telephone exchange names" and came up with that page you referenced earlier (but didn't link properly). In his explanation he mentions the KLondike exchange, which solved my question of what name you could make with JKL. :)
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
As a kid I always thought it was so strange that phone numbers in films were Klondike 5, it wasn't like they were calling the Yukon. Later I learned that the 555 exchange isn't used so it is what they use in films and TV. Then some time after that I put two and two together.

That link worked when I first put it up, I tested it. Cyberspace hates me.
Bruce Rose Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Thanks to the two of you, I'll be singing "BEachwood 4-5789" forever. :-)
danced with Lazlo Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Andrea Krause Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Which of course makes me think of Transylvania 6-5000 which is a cheesy yet appealing movie. And when the phone rings it does the tune of the aforementioned song. :)
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
I was at a friend's house and we put on the TV and we heard someone sing, PEnnsylvania 6-Five Thousand and my reaction was "OOO that sounds good." because I like the song. Then the dialogue started and we found that it was some horrible TV show or TV movie. We know longer remember what it was but my friend and I will still start singing that out of nowhere when we don't know what's on TV.
A girl named Becca Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
One of the questions I was asked most often by Europeans while studying abroad was, "do all the phone numbers in the U.S. really start with 555-?"
A.J. · 18 years, 4 months ago
Has anyone else ever dialed a number by simply pushing the switchook repeatedly to tap out each number? That is all the dial used to do. It works!
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
I did that and I taught my friends to do it. Now here's a question. Does anyone have good enough pitch to be able to dial a phone by singing the tones into it?
A.J. Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
I don't think you can, because they're polyphonic. each tone is a combo of 2. One for the row and one for the collumn. Didn't you ever notice when you push 2 buttons in a row or in a collumn you would hear only a single tone? That is the tone for that row or collumn. I think you have to use a real (ie old fashioned Bell) telephone for that to work though. Just tried it on my Lucent office phone and it doesn't do that.
Yvonne Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
You'd need two singers? I'll help! ;)
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Cool, so you need a Tuvan Throat singer to do it.
Jºnªthªn Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
After the Northridge earthquake the power was out but the phone lines were up. I had a Sony phone that needed to be plugged in to dial, but I managed to call my parents by tapping out their number on the hookswitch. No small feat considering that there's a 0 (10 taps) and a 9 in their number.
Yvonne Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
*blink* You mean the part the handset rests on? I want to try it now but I'm not exactly sure what that means.
Paul D. Beasi Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Yes, and this used to come in handy for payphones with broken keypads.
Agent Scully · 18 years, 4 months ago
I had one of these phones in 1987 and it was rented from the phone company (theyhad stores in the mall to rent the phones).

This was my first "bedroom phone" when we moved.
elfy, teacher of many Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
ooh it's like one of the super hero type "HOTLINE" phones!
Agent Scully Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
It was in a Monkees episode! That's why I wanted one like it. :D
Nik Chaikin Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
if i had one of those i'd keep it under a little glass dome and always answer "yes Mr.President?"
Yvonne · 18 years, 4 months ago
My family had a black rotary 500 desk phone for the longest time until my parents had to give it back to Bell.

A couple years ago I realised that they were pretty cool and that I missed my black rotary phone so I bought a new (old) black desk phone exactly like it and a restored pink princess phone from '64 or something. I kind of want a wall phone too but really wouldn't have anywhere to put it.

We still have a green desk phone in the house (but it's a pretty ugly puke shade and it's a little damaged...I think my dad found it in the closet of an old apartment) and I rescued an ivory one from my grandmother's house a few years ago when she died.

I was upset when Greg's Ice Cream moved and got rid of their ivory rotary wall phone, among other cool retro-looking stuff.
Jillian Bird · 18 years, 4 months ago
I stage managed a play that required 19 black rotary dial phone in 2001 (I was in high school). That was fun looking all over the city for them. Eventually we found a farmer who happened to have a box with about 30 phones in his barn and he lent them to us for the duration of the play
Bender Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
As a sometime stage manager, that is the most gorgeous thing I've ever, ever heard of. Ever.

What play?
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
A farmer had a box of 30 rotary phones. Did his chickens lead a very active social life?
hkath · 18 years, 4 months ago
The phone in my room growing up had two pieces. A mouthpiece and an earpiece. Ha!

edit: this was basically it.
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
You must be older than dirt.
A.J. Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
I had that phone in MY room too (see we're twins) but of course it wasn't an original. It was a replica I got my grandmother to buy me. It had an electronic ringer, which was very incongruous with its look.

Can one even BUY rotary phones any more? Even the retro ones seem to just have buttons in a circle.
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
You can make one out of coconuts. I remember the professor did that on Gilligan's Island.
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
yes you can The Dreyfus 500 Desk Phone

Whoops that has push buttons insde the dial

Here is one that is actually rotary.

Black single line rotary desk phone
A.J. Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Nope. Read the description. It has buttons. The dial is fake.
Gordondon son of Ethelred Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
I knew somebody would catch that as I was correcting it myself.
A.J. Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
$50???? I know they last forever, but wow. I'd think $10 would be about right. $15 since it is refurbished.

I wonder what I should infer from the fact that it is being sold by "PC Liquidations"? :)
Bruce Rose Back · 18 years, 4 months ago

Would it have been so hard to use black cable instead of ivory?

Wait, that's probably a $75 deluxe model...

Yvonne Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
Try (they're all authentic original phones restored with new plastic and modular cords, I've bought two rotary phones from them that work great, their service seems to be excellent and they guarantee all their phones for life) or if you want something dirt cheap try looking around surplus stores but I don't know what the quality is of the phones you might find there (I've never looked, just been told they carry them).
A.J. Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
A lifetime warranty is very little risk for them because there is very little that can go wrong with those phones. They're built like tanks, and all the internal wiring is just that: wiring. It is very easy to replace a bad wire, all you need is a screwdriver. No transistors, no printed circuits, nothing that is hard to fix. Just an electric bell, a switch, the dial and some wires. The most you'd probably have to do with a phone you found as salvage would be to replace the wall or handset wire. Even a bad mic or speaker you just drop a new one in. They really were marvels of engineering.
Yvonne Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
True dat.

I wouldn't know how to fix a phone I found slightly broken (my dad probably would, he's an engineer), but I don't expect anything will go wrong with the ones I have. Besides that, the reason I buy them refurbished is mostly that I like the look of the new plastic over something that's been used and/or abused, though if you got a phone where the only problem was scratches you could always use plastic polish. My dad has a moss green desk phone with cracks in some places, which would be harder to fix, and I've seen phones where the colour has faded in some places, which kind of sucks.

All this talk of rotary phones is really making me want to budget for another one...and I don't even have a land line at the moment. ;)
A.J. Back · 18 years, 4 months ago
My grandparents had a phone like this:

in their basement (as their basment phone) for years. I wish I had thought to ask them to give it to me before it got replaced. :(

Note the lettter Z was assigned to zero on this dial, not to 9.

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