Friday, September 16, 2011


I was trading messages with an online buddy from an audio forum and we were reminiscing about the good old days of dial phones.

Do young people these days even know what a dial phone is? I guess so.. they may have seen one in a retro store or seen one selling for hundreds of dollars as a novelty at Brookstone or something like that. Or maybe their grandparents have one.

I told him something really stupid I did when I was little - instead of putting my finger in the dial at the number that I wanted (for example, to dial "5" put your finger in the hole in the dial where the "5" is - young people, if you are confused then ask your parents or grandparents to explain), I put my finger where the "0" was and then moved the dial up to the number I wanted.

After I did this, I was amazed that a call actually went through and I could hear it ringing on the other end! Like, I had discovered a new way to dial! Yeah I know, pretty stupid.

Remember how you could dial by clicking the buttons on top of the phone? Like to dial a "5" you clicked the button real fast 5 times? I used to call my friends that way.

And I remember when all of L.A. County was in the 213 area code.. and telephone prefixes were letters, not numbers. Like REpublic 4-0227.

We used to have a party line. Does anyone remember those? That's where you shared the phone with someone else. Not the same phone number, but if you were on the phone that meant that the other party to the line couldn't use it until you got off. And if someone tried calling the other party while you were on, they got a busy signal. No call-waiting back in those days!

We shared a line with a family across the street, the Kasakawa's. I recall a few times when my folks were irritated because they needed to use the phone and kept picking it up every few minutes but they were still on it. I remember being over their house, because the son, Edwin, was one of my friends. One day we wanted to make a call and I picked up the phone and heard someone talking. Being on the other side of the party line, it didn't occur to me that this was my dad. I just thought someone somehow got on the phone line so I kept clicking the phone and dialing and making noise and finally he hung up the phone, haha.. Later on after thinking about it, I realized hey, when I was home then the Kasakawa's were the other people on the phone line so if I was at their house, then my own family must be the other people on the phone line. Yeah, I know, pretty stupid.

A couple of other things I discovered from playing with the phone: it used to be that if you dialed three digits then "1" then the same three digits (such as 296-1296), you would get a beeping tone that would beep a certain number of times and then hang up. I guess this must have been some sort of test line?

Another thing was that if you dialed a number and the last four digits were "1118" (for example, 296-1118) and someone else dialed the same prefix plus "1119", the two lines would connect and you could talk to them.

Now if you ask me how I happened to find out these things, I have no idea. I guess I must have had nothing better to do than to play around with the phone.

Our phone had no detachable cord, either. Not like phones today where the cord plugs into a jack and you can remove it. These were wired into a box. No unplugging allowed!

I guess back in those days, had we imagined a cellular phone one might have scoffed at the idea - so where are they going to get cords that long, huh???


Anonymous said...

i still keep a rotary dial phone that can plug into the phone jack. when the power goes out, the phone still works, because it's using the electricity within the phone line.

Rickie Miyake said...

I thought that even with the touch tone phones, they continue to operate even if the electricity goes out because they are self-powered as well?