You lucky git ...
... I look like an infamous Norwegian maniac
Shut up shut up shut up. Some annoying tit is typing away on his laptop as I’m trying to snooze on the train – except it doesn’t sound like he’s typing so much as rummaging through a bag of Scrabble tiles. It’s a horrible clattery, clickety, plasticky noise. Shut up shut up shut up, you twat. I’m on the train heading home …
... I look like an infamous Norwegian maniac
Still better than me. Even groomed and coifed, in a tux I look like a homeless person someone dressed up for a laugh.
Post Office 746 classic telephones (new but old stock with new cables) are still available after BT found a warehouse full of them and sold them on. They come in rather fetching 1970s colours.
I bought a 706 at a car boot sale for 15 quid a couple of weeks ago for use as a stage prop. It's ivory and in pristine condition - even the carbon granule mic is as clear as a bell. A couple of diodes and a resistor later and it's hooked up on my home line and working perfectly. I had to give my 13 year-old son a lesson in how to use it though!
Absolutely! The pulse dial phone we found was a beautiful bright red. It was lovely.
Fantastic! A proper "Hot Line" phone phone.
numbers are arranged anti-clockwise around the dial, which makes even less sense than designing counting machines to have 7-8-9 on the top row
Of course they are! Otherwise you had to move your finger anti-clockwise to dial. What's the problem with that, you may ask. Well, it just doesn't make much sense, does it?
Makes perfect sense - for right-handed people, anyway.
Well, in New Zealand the dials turned in the same direction as here, but the numbers were arranged clockwise on the dial. It all worked perfectly: the NZPO defined the number of pulses per number its compliment, so dialling 1 emitted ten pulses and dialling 0 emitted one. And, before you ask, the emergency number was 111, not 999.
It was to avoid BT's patent or so I am lead to believe
Is that due to the Coriolis Effect?
Yes. And that explains why they were the other way around in New Zealand (see above post).*
*Yes, yes, I'm aware that Australia, for one, had it the same way around as British phones. I worked** for Australia's overseas telecommunications entity long ago. They had to add special stuff in their exchanges to handle NZ phone numbers.
** if that's the word, of course.
You used to be able to make free calls from pay phones by tapping the button the correct number of times, the area code for where I lived was 478 so it was 6 pulses, wait, 3 pulses, wait, 2 pulses, etc.
I was very glad there were no 1s or 0s in my home number.
"It was to avoid BT's patent or so I am lead to believe"
BT (or GPO then) didn't have any kind of patent on these phones, the Strowger system was a US invention.
I don't think so.
I think it was a "non-tariff trade barrier" that kept the ludicrously inefficient local phone making factory in business. It's receding into the mists of time, but I think it was a Pye (or Phillips?) factory in Porirua where they made the things that were different enough from 'proper' phones that it wasn't worth anyone else making them for the tiny local NZ market.
In those days of course you could rent - not buy - your handset from anyone you liked as long as you liked the Post Office. And they could often connect your house to the phone network in less than three months. Ah, the Good Old Days.
So how would they be arranged at the equator??? <scratches head>
Unfortunately I look like James Bond the evil wizard that eats baby penguins and not James Bond the spy.
I'm closer to the ornithologist who wrote the 'Birds of the West Indies'
logo - only bird available
kind of amazed that it still actually works! Assumed that most exchanges wouldn't recognise it anymore. Anyone else remember spending ages trying to dial numbers by just clicking the handset rest?
That truly was "tapping in the number"
tapping the number was when you figured out how it all worked and then realised your local supermarkets one button only taxi firm phone was your ticket to free phone calls, I remember how the locks the old rotary dial phones used to make me chuckle too, to many zero's was rather annoying though... pulse dialing was even more fun and yes I did have captain crunch for breakfast...
Clicking the handset rest* was a way to make free calls from pre-STD** call boxes.
IIRC, to make calls legally, you had to insert four pre-decimal pennies, things about the size and weight of a bronze coaster, dial the number, and when you were connected, press Button A to commit the transaction. There was a Button B for rollback. I suppose the phone wouldn't transmit dial pulses until you proved you had the money, but the line was enabled so you could simulate them by clicking the receiver rest.
It sounds like the Middle Ages, especially when you realise that the four pennies we saved were worth 1.7p in decimal money.
*known, confusingly as "phone tapping"
**Subscriber Trunk Dialling, not Sexually Transmitted Disease
Only in 1971. Nowadays 4d is worth 20p (at least according to the Daily Fail's inflation calculator)
On a broader note, I wish the BBC et al would stop doing the conversions from old LSD values to "New Pence" as if it was a direct numerical conversion. A shilling in the '60s bought you a damn sight more than 5p does now. Oddly enough, when it comes to pounds sterling they always make an inflation-adjusted conversion, but not with coinage.
Remember doing it back in about 1986 when there were still some old A - B button phones available.
As I recall 1s, 9s and 0s could be dialled directly - the numbers from 2 to 8 had to be tapped.
Which raises a further question. 999 was picked to avoid the accidental dialling of 111 through the contacting of lines - essentially the same result as tapping or dialling a 1.
Wonder how many phantom calls the new non-emergency NHS number gets these days. Sometimes it pays to remember the old history.
Loop disconnect (pulse dialling) is still a standard feature of the UK PSTN. All exchanges (or all BT / KC exchanges anyway) on the public network support it.
And in those days, the phone boxes where commonly plastered with numbers for certain services. Pretty sure a few lads made there pre-STD* calls from there, too.
*Sexually Transmitted Disease, not Subscriber Trunk Dialling
When 112 was introduced in the early 90's as a pan-European emergency number (it works alongside 999 in the UK) there was a significant amount of false calls. At the time one solution was to disable loop disconnect dialling on lines that were prone to problems as a short-term fix until the underlying line problem could be addressed.
Sometimes the problem was overhead lines running through trees, sometimes it was dodgy internal wiring - often people who'd poorly routed the cabling for an extension so that opening a door crushed the wires and caused a short, and sometimes it was slightly mad people who tapped the switch-hooks a lot in the manner of Hollywood movies when someone has been cut off.
yep to bypass those dial locks in rented houses. tappity tap tap worked every time.
Some exchanges don't support pulse dialing any more but many do. I've just connected an old rotary phone bought at a car boot sale to my home line and it works perfectly.
A telephone engineer friend once told me that there are proportionally more wrong number calls since phones were fitted with button numbers compared with the dial phone era. Apparently it is much easier to hit a wrong key than it is to dial incorrectly.
That's because you know you've dialled it wrong and tapped the switch hook before re-dialling, whereas with push-button phones you often don't realise before you're connected. How do you know? You just know. It's a proper UI, there's not many of those about these days.
I'm convinced BT's entire national network is set up to understand pulse dial phones just for my parents' phone, by the way.
And the fact there are proberbly 10's of millions more numbers now than then
Where I live, last time I checked, you had to personally visit the office of the phone company and write a paper request to have DTMF enabled on your home line. So, I had to configure my SIP ATA to use pulse dialling.
Speaking of vintage tech, years before that, I was rather thrilled when I had an opportunity to connect a 386 PC running SCO UNIX to the telegraph network with a specialized adapter, and could login and enter commands from a real electromechanical telegraph terminal. At 50 baud!
it was shilling coins when I was a kid so im not quite as old. Still you always had the pips to "COME PICK ME UP"
Ee aye, when I were a lad you could get three penn'orth of chips. And with scraps too! Then it were four penn'orth, then five, and six, and it's never been t'same since!
"sometimes it was slightly mad people who tapped the switch-hooks a lot in the manner of Hollywood movies when someone has been cut off."
Yes, why on EARTH do they do that? "hello? hello? <tappy> <tappy> <tappy> hello?"
Anyone else remember spending ages trying to dial numbers by just clicking the handset rest?
Hell, I remember having a phone stored on memory and doing the reverse process: hearing the clicks generated by the phone, then substracting 1 from the click batches and voila! I have the phone number!
(Ok, if you heard 11 clicks, that was 0.)
When I were a lad, I think a light went on in the exchange when you lifted the receiver. The operator would then plug her (usually her) headset into your socket, and say, "Which number do you require?". So, I suppose, tappy tapping it would cause a flashing light alarm. My phone number was Honiton 709, when I was six years old.
Yes but you could get a lot of sweeties for 1d in old money.please note not p but a d
Which is odd, because supporting loop disconnect means you need 2 extra relays on the line card.
Because doing that summoned the operator in the old pre-dial days.
I'm not ancient but I've lived in a couple of places where phones had crank handles and you had to listen to the morse-coded ringing to work out if a call was for you, or the neighbours or the bloke 2 miles down the road,
I was amazed to read, back about 15 years ago, that some Ten Million US homes still had a Rotary phone in their home - and a surprising percentage of those people were still LEASING them from their local phone monopoly, at well over a dollar per month. I know that my mother paid over $1,000 to lease her 1963 rotary phone just between 1987 and 1997. This phone was installed when we built the house in '63, but we'd thrown that phone away sometime in the early 80s - and failed to notify the phone co, since Mom didn't KNOW that she was paying for it!
Gotta love that fine print on the bill! [Don't bash my poor mother, she was in her eighties when I discovered this outright theft by Ohio Bell]
I had a GPO 746 plugged into a TDM410P on a server running Asterisk. It accepts pulse dialling just fine. You can even use it to navigate voice menus!
Alas, the box packed up last weekend; so I'm now in the process of replacing it.
Most exchanges in fact do still recognize it, VOIP adaptors, asterisk systems and some bits of virgin-on-the-mediocre won't. Causes me endless problems when I sell rotary phones to people with a nonstandard phone setup
Did you just photoshop your head onto that tux - or is that your standard pose?
Yes it was Photoshopped, based on the terrible selfie I did when the column was launched.
Looking pretty spiff in that tux, Alistair, even if it looks obviously Photoshopped.
I must admit that the immediate commentards assumption that it must be a photoshop job is amusing by its implied insult :)
Another fine piece - thanks for this, Alistair.
Why would you assume any insult is implied or intended? I would assume Alistair intended us to presume the picture was Photoshopped.
The dial would have to turn counter clockwise which is not only counter intuitive but according to some is associated with the devil. Maybe they *did* know what they were doing back then...