Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Telephones (1)

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Do you remember when making a phone call on a land line to another country would take hours to connect? Sometimes, calls had to be booked in advance. More often than not there would be an off-putting echo or feedback which made conversation rather difficult. Telephone operators would ‘put you through’ or ask you to ‘please hold the line while I connect you.’

Those days are past for the majority of the modern world. Land line connection is automatic and swift and our callers sound as though they’re in the same room. Home phones are super-smart and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and if we wish we can call from room to room through an interconnected network. Phones may have big buttons for callers with dexterity problems or be specially adapted for people who have hearing loss or failing sight. Answerphones are integral and there are phones which are connected to fax machines – no problem is unsolvable.

 
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
For those who wish to relive the past, reproduction ‘candlestick’ phones are a pleasant reminder of more genteel times, when a number would be preceded by the name of the exchange – the most memorable perhaps being ‘Whitehall 1212’, the number of the Metropolitan Police at New Scotland Yard, a Victorian Gothic building on Victoria Embankment.

The irony of New Scotland Yard was that it was being built in October 1888 on a site containing the torso of a murdered woman. Other remains - a right arm and shoulder and a left leg - were found in two further locations, but the head and the rest of the limbs were never recovered. Newspapers suggested a link to Jack the Ripper, the serial killer who was murdering prostitutes during this period but the police said there was no connection. The murder was never solved.

Before the advent of the push button keypads of modern telephones, numbers were obtained by turning a dial. By listening carefully one could discern which number was being dialled. 1 had no letter and took a short time to return to its position. 0 was the furthest away and carried the letters O and Q. 9 was next to 0, easy to find and having the letters W, X and Y. 999 was and still is the number for instant connection to the emergency services of Police, Fire Brigade and Ambulance and, in some areas, Coastguard, Mountain or Cave Rescue.

I like modern phones – they’re neat, compact, easy to use – but I was sad to see the rotary dial phones disappear from common use.

11 comments:

  1. I love the look of those old phones and used to love dialling on the circular dial-something very satisfying about it!

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  2. I remember when there were no dials on phones. The operator would answer "Number, please" and even if you didn't know the number, you could tell the operator who you were calling and she'd put you through.
    My first telephone experience was as a very small child, saying to the operator, "This is Kay, I want to speak to Grandma." My grandmother and her sister had been telephone operators for many years in New Westminster, BC, where I was born, so all the telephone operators knew of me, and put me through to Grandma.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

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  3. I miss the old days for sure, the rotary phone on the wall. Grreat post.
    BTW, did you get the rain I sent you?!

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  4. I remember having to share a phone line with neighbors. When I was a kid I liked listening in, if I could get away with it. Our exchange was Pyramid. I love having a cell phone. They are so handy.

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  5. those rotary dial phones were great in their times!

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  6. Telephones have changed so much, mostly for the better. I love having a cell phone for emergencies, but I do hate seeing people use them while driving.

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  7. you know what? I agree with Sarah....I never thought about it til she just mentioned it

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  8. Our modes of communication have come a long way and are far more efficent but it is sort of sad to see the old rotary phones gathering dust on a shelf in the antique store.

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  9. Even loking at the early cell phones feels like the dark ages

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  10. And then today there is SKYPE, where one can 'phone' from one country to another, anywhere in the world, for FREE and see each other yet!

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