Introducing The Dial Telephone

If you are over 80 years old, you experienced the transition from the non-dial telephone to the dial telephone, which included the magic “finger stop.”

If you are 30, imagine what you will be reflecting on 50 years from now.

  • I got my first cell phone, an in-car Audiovox w/ pristine call quality, in 1988.

    I’ll never forget a coworker, riding w/ a group of us in my car to lunch one day, asking me ‘why would you ever need a phone in your car?’

    That same coworker left her purse at the restaurant + realized it on our drive back to the office. I used the cell phone – mostly hands free even then – to call 411, get the restaurant’s phone number, get connected + then ask them to walk out + check where we’d been sitting. They found the purse + held it for us while we drove back to get it.

    No one will ever need a phone in their car, indeed.

    • And we will never need more than 64k of RAM.

      • when I pitched freepository in ’99, among all the blank ‘I don’t get it’ stares was this comment from Andy Bechtolsheim: “no one will ever put their source code on a server they don’t own”

        Like Duncan Watts says, everything is obvious once you know the answer.

  • I’m 37 and it’s already a bit scary being able to reflect on things that young people have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Pagers is a good one. I used to have to go to a payphone, call a human operator and relay a message to her. They would then send a text message to that pager who would then get the message.

    Long way of sending a whatsapp huh? lol

  • Jake Schrader

    I AM 50 so another 50 years is probably more than I have left in the tank. I’m going to imagine what I might be reflecting on in 30 years, and since you mentioned phones, I’ll continue that riff as this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.
    The increasing ubiquity of smart phones in the hands ever younger children, and the impact on their developing brains. I’m no doctor or scientist, but I suspect that children born in developed countries between +/- 2003 and now, or possibly later, are going to be found in hindsight to have been exposed to a profoundly addictive experience.
    How this eventually shapes their abilities in life to form relationships, pursue tasks that are not immediately gratifying, delay pleasure, and other questions are foremost in my mind, and I suspect that the results aren’t going to be pretty.

    • Paul Pittman

      So Jake in 30 years the pleasures (and frustrations) you speak of will have been forgotten and humanity will have been reshaped and moved on – I am sure we lost a lot of human pleasure and capability with the advent of the car, TV and other breakthroughs. Progress is tradeoff. Have a great weekend.

  • Sebastien Latapie

    We will be looking back on smartphones as these weird impractical devices – why were people carrying things around all the time when it can just live with you permanently!

  • StevenHB

    I have an old-fashioned dial phone, complete with Ma Bell’s number insert, in my garage. It was taken from my mother’s home.

  • Scott Carr

    A few years ago I was cleaning out my attic and brought down a box for sorting. My wife was out of town and the kids were home, circling to see if there were gems from the past they could claim. I opened a box of LPs and pulled out an album by Queen. My kids, aged 13 to 16 at the time, looked at this thing and said “what’s that??”. I slid the record out of the sleeve – it had been played once and recorded – and they looked in awe. I said “really, you’ve never seen an LP?”.

    Stunned I went up in the attic, found my Technics turntable, plugged it into the home entertainment system, and played the record. They were mesmerized. Four hours later they were still playing records, enthralled with the idea that a little needle would create stereo sound.

  • they promised me flying cars, and all I want is a good cell signal and calls that don’t drop

  • TamiMForman

    Oh wow, the busy signal! Remember the busy signal? Our apartment in Queens had a dial telephone in the kitchen. That was 1996. Probably the last time I saw one.

  • DaveJ

    More subtle perhaps is the question of where one might have seen this video, since there were basically no televisions. The answer, presumably, is at the movie theatre.

  • I remember growing up in Chicago in the mid-1950s and had to call an operator and give her (every operator was female that I spoke with) the phone number of the person I was calling!

  • When I used the dial phone for the first time, the phone number was of 2 digits. it was *90* at my grandfather’s shop. When it was changed to a three-digit number *224*, we all found it little difficult to remember. Now we have 10-digits + country code + extension number (sometimes) too.

  • RBC

    “It sounds like this …” Brilliant!
    OT, but following your theme from yesterday – you and Fred have been an inspiration for me to start writing more to help spread ideas. I just published an op ed for my alma matter encouraging students to learn to code –

  • While I don’t miss the rotary dialer, I do miss the absolute reliability and sparkling clarity of Ma Bell’s land lines. As a service, cellular isn’t as painfully egregious as, say, commercial air travel, but it still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of quality and reliability. Aside from that, I’ll take a phone in my pocket over one on the wall any day.