Modern Life Got a Real Boost Today in 1963

Behold: The Debut of the Touch-Tone Telephone

Most reading this can’t recall anything but a touch-tone keypad for a standard landline telephone or a keypad for their cellphones. Yet, there was a day when people inserted their finger, usually their index finger, into a hole in a rotary wheel, and spun it multiple times to make a telephone call. You may have observed actors performing this odd custom in older films.

Most who have seen or have used a touch-tone phone have used the 12-button version. It became widely available in 1968. The first touch-tone phones, however, featured only 10 buttons. Those poor deprived early users had to do without the asterisk and the hash mark and all the wondrous additional potential they afforded.

Older readers may remember pre-1960 telephones, large, black, heavy, metal devices. These phones offered users the additional benefit of weight training while phoning.

These same readers may also recall the party line. Having party-line service meant you shared your line with other subscribers. So, you might share a line with phones in four other homes in your town.

You could delight yourself by listening in on others’ conversations. You could also frustrate yourself by desperately waiting to make a call while someone sharing your line blathered on, or was it gassed interminably about some inanity?

(You may wonder, how did you know if an incoming call was meant for you? Selective ring is the answer. Each subscriber received his or her own number of quick rings.)

Anyway, back to the touch-tone. This evening, hoist a beverage of your choice in celebration of a little invention that has delivered giant convenience for the past 52 years. w/c

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