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Telephone Dialing 101


Here’s a fascinating piece of history that’s related to obsolete things, which was the topic of yesterday’s edition of the Sunday Seven.

Those of us who grew up with them never had to have any elaborate instruction on how to work an old-school rotary phone. We just somehow got it.

But when rotary phones first started appearing, replacing previous models with no dials that required asking a local operator to route your call every time you wanted to speak to someone, a major educational campaign was produced to explain to telephone customers how that strange little device really worked.

I found this video on YouTube.

There are even older versions, including a silent one produced in 1927 featuring the original candlestick phone as the example. It’s amazing what you can find on that site!


  1. How many of your readers still remember the name of their telephone exchange or how many of you even know what I am talking about?

    In the old days 🙂 the first two numbers of you phone number was a word, like VAlley – 8 or BAldwin – 5, the number you would call would 828 or 225 respectively. Elizabeth Taylor stared in a movie called BUtterfield-8. or 298.

    1. It was technically before my time, but I do know about it because I’ve watched enough old movies to have seen it and I’m just nostalgic and nosey enough to have researched it a bit.

      I always wanted a “555” number because that fictional prefix was so often used in TV and films. The closest I got was with my former landline, with its 556 prefix. Twice now I’ve given my number as KLondike 6…, once to a young person and once to an older person. The young person looked at me like I’d just beamed in from another planet. The older person smiled knowingly and jotted the number down as KL6….

      My cell begins with a 72, and one of the most used exchange names for that was PAcific. That exchanged was used in the San Francisco/Bay Area market where some close friends of mine are. What are the odds?

      I might have to start using PAcific 5…. 🙂

  2. We were talking about rotary dials last week, and there's an app for that on the iPhone, of course. Good stuff.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.