How do you use a rotary-dial phone? Find out, plus get top telephone tips from the olden days


When dialing

look in the directory for the chastise number .
Lift the recipient and listen for the “ dial tone. ” The brace hum sound tells you the dial equipment is ready for your predict .
Place your finger hard in the first step for the detail letter or trope desired. Pull the dial around until your finger strikes the metal feel stop. then release the dial and allow it to return without hindrance.

Old black dial telephone from 1948

To dial local calls

Dial the two letters and the five figures of the call number. For example, to call ALpha 9-1234, dial A, L, then 9-1, 2, 3, 4 .
If you reach a incorrectly number, try to determine the substitute name and call count you have reached. If you have reached a telephone outside your local calling area, hang up, wait a moment, dial “ Operator, ” and tell her what has happened .
Do this promptly to avoid having the charge appear on your bill .
Blue rotary dial telephone from 1956

“ The Telephone and How We Use It ” was published by Bell Telephone System in 1951, and slightly revised versions were used well into the 1960s. Geared toward children, the booklet covers the basics of how to use a rotary-dial call — the latest technology of the time .

The telephone & how we use it

The booklet included these sections:

  • The telephone and its uses
  • Kinds of telephones
  • How to talk on the telephone
  • How to use a dial telephone
  • How to use a telephone without a dial
  • Coin telephones
  • Allow time for answering
  • How to use a telephone book
  • How to get help in making calls
  • Telephone manners
  • Be a good telephone neighbor
  • Suggested activities
  • Personal telephone list

Vintage phone instruction book (1951)

The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
The telephone was invented in 1876 by a youthful man named Alexander Graham Bell. Since then, the act of telephones has grown and grown, and today there are millions of telephones in America. The United States has more telephones than all the rest of the world .
There are telephones everywhere. They make it easy to talk with people a long way off or lone across the street .
How to use a rotary-dial telephone: Top tips from the '50s
When using the telephone, hold the recipient close to your ear. Talk directly into the mouthpiece. Speak in a natural, well-defined voice. You do not have to shout. Speak as though the early person were in the same room .
How to use a rotary-dial telephone: Top tips from the '50s
In some places, the dials have only numbers like this. There are besides some other types of dials, but all dials work the same way and are easy to use .
nowadays let ’ s call John Smith, whose call issue is COlumbus 6-7790. Notice that the beginning two letters of COlumbus are in capitals. To call a number on a dial call you use only the letters in capitals, followed by the figures .
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
then when you call John on a dial telephone, you just dial C-0-6-7-7-9-0 .
here is how you dial : First, pick up the call. Listen for the dial tone at firm humming audio. If you dial before you hear it, you may get a wrong number or no numeral at all .
When you hear the dial tone, place your finger in the hole on the dial where “ C ” is seen. Turn the dial to the right until your finger hits the finger stop .
future, place your finger in the hole where the letter “ O ” is seen and turn the dial until your finger hits the finger stop. Remove your finger and let the dial chatter back again. now dial the numbers 6-7-7-9-0 in the lapp room .
Of run, when a telephone number has no letters all you have to dial are the numbers. When you finish dialing, wait a here and now and you will hear a brrr brrr sound. This means that the telephone you have called is ringing .
Be certain and let the call ring long adequate to give John time to answer. then, equally soon as John comes to the call, you can start talking with him .
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
When using 8. call without a dial, you tell the number you are calling to a call operator, rather of turning a dial. Let ’ s call Jane Murray, whose telephone count is COlumbus 6-8722 .
here is the manner to do ít. Hold the receiver to your ear and you will hear the operator say, “ Number, please. ” You then say, “ COlumbus 6-8722. ” Notice that you say the Whole give voice “ COlumbus, ” not merely the first two letters “ CO ” which were used on the dial telephone .
At a switchboard, the operator connects your call line With Jane ’ randomness. When Jane answers her telephone you can start talking with her .
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
If the person you are calling does not answer right off, let the call hoop at least a moment. He or she may be in another depart of the house or outdoors. If there is no answer after a moment or so, probably no matchless is at home ; so hang up and try again belated .
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
When you are calling person, you may hear a buzz-buzz-buzz phone. This is the busy sign, which means that the line you are calling is being used. When you hear this sound, hang up right away and wait for several minutes before calling again .
There are certain numbers which we call quite often, such as those of our friends and relatives. besides, there are numbers we should call in cases of emergency, such as those of our doctor, the drug storehouse, the police and fire departments .
It is helpful to keep a list of these numbers near the call so that we can look them up promptly and easily before calling .
When in doubt about a telephone number, always look it up in the earphone directory .
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
If you have looked in the directory and can not find the number of the person you want to call, you can get his count from the data operator .
If your telephone has a dial, the number to dial to reach the information operator is listed in the front share of the directory. If your telephone does not have a dial, ask the operator for “ information. ”
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
If you need any early kind of help in making a call, ask the operator. On a dial call, she can be reached by dialing the count “ 0 ”. Of course, when a telephone has no dial, the Operator answers when you pick up the call .
If you need help in case of an hand brake, call the hustler. She will be glad to help you. When making an hand brake call, be sure to give the cover where help oneself is needed. Be calm and talk slowly so you can be understand .
When you telephone, the early person can not see you. He judges you by your voice. Be natural and civilized when using the telephone and you will make a good stamp. If you call the wrong number, apologize to the person who answers. Be polite if person calls your issue by mistake .
If you answer a call for some other member of your kin, say, “ Just a moment please, ” or use a alike polite expression, If the person called is not home plate, offer to be of help oneself.

After finishing a call, hang up the recipient. besides, be sure that it is firm in place. If one end of it is held up by a book or other object, no one will be able to call you .
The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
How to use a rotary-dial telephone

What’s my number? (1952)

circular dial telephones replaced operator-assisted calling, which meant there was a whole new arrangement for people to learn. These basic instructions were printed in a 1952 telephone book, and was provided by the San Francisco History Center .


1 ) Get the right total from the current telephone directory. If the list is not found, please call INFORMATION by dialing 411 .
2 ) Lift the receiver and listen for the “ hum ” of the dial tone. note : If calling from a mint call, coin must be depositied before dial tone will be heard .
3 ) Dial the first two letters and the numeral of the cardinal office name, then the remaining figures in the issue. If the figures are followed by W, J, R or M, dial this letter besides .
4 ) Let the dial retort freely after each letter or calculate is dialed. Forcing or retarding the return gesture may result in a wrong number .

Other dialing suggestions

  • Be careful not to mistake the letter o for the figure “O” (zero); or the letter I for the figure “1” (one).
  • If you realize a mistake in dialing has been made, hang up for a moment. After listening to the dial tone again, redial the complete number.
  • From an extension or party line telephone, if you hear someone else dialing when you lift the receiver, tell him you have interfered with his call. Then hang up and make your call later.

What it takes to dial a phone - 1961

Poised for the new rotary dial phone system (1957)

From the Las Vegas Daily Optic ( East Las Vegas, New Mexico ) December 14, 1957
Complex equipment operates new telephone dial system – Customers start job when placing calls
The electrical brain which will be completing your calls when you start using the dial call tomorrow is described by Eugene Akin, Service Foreman of the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company establish, as one of the most complex machines ever designed for cosmopolitan habit .
LIFE Sep 19, 1960 Red telephone
“ You see, the equipment hera is actually operated wholly by our customers whenever they dial a issue. It sets up connections between any two telephones – a entire of about 18 million possible connections. It rings aloof telephones and rings back to the calling party what it is doing — ringing a call, encountering a ‘ busy ’ or ‘ no such number. ’
“ It is housed in a room with neat rows of equipment extending from floor to ceiling. The heart of the equipment is the dial throw. There are thousands of them and hundreds of early pieces of equipment all connected together by thousands and thousands of bantam isolate wires with groups neatly soldered to each firearm of equipment .
“ The dial switches are of respective different types, each doing unlike jobs. One character is to search, by means of electric fingers, for your telephone line, when you lift the telephone receiver, ” says Akin .
All the parts of a dial telephone from 1963
“ a soon as it finds the right line it attaches itself and sends out the hum-m-m which it the machines ’ way of saying ‘ Number, please. ’ As you call, letting the dial turn out back to its original position, there is a click for each whole of the total dialed — three clicks for a 3, four clicks for a 4, etc .
“ With each snap, a pulse of current passed through some electromagnet and in go a dial switch over mechanism jumps three steps or four, corresponding to the number dialed, and electric fingers made a association to another slice of equipment .
“ The series of dial pulses causes a train of five dial switches to be connected together establishing a way through the equipment to the note of the called telephone. All told, adenine many as 1,100 separate electrical contacts are made or tested in completing a unmarried call through the dial mechanism .
“ The world power to ring the distant telephone, the dial tone, interfering tone and early service signals, are all produced by a ring car in the basement and introduced into the telephone trace at the proper time by the dial mechanism. ”
Boy looking at a vintage dial telephone - Western Electric ad from 1962

One minute needed on dial conversion

At the stroke of 12, Saturday night, the telephone system in Las Vegas will be converted from its present manual to dial operation. Within about one minute, telephone cables will be cut, switches will be placed in operation, and the stallion new telephone Building will become alive as Las Vegas residents test the raw equipment .
This will be the culminating consequence toward which many months of planning and about $ 1-1/2 million have been spent to accomplish, inaugurating a dial system is not wish buying an car off the trader ’ second deck. It is more like designing, and then building an automobile for a particular customer. It is a long, boring and expensive operation .
MORE: President Eisenhower & the rotary-dial telephone (1955)
JD Richardson, Manager of The Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co here said that the decision to convert to dial mathematical process in Las Vegas was made respective years ago, and although it was postponed temporarily, the final examination decisiveness was made in 1954 .
At that time, engineers began making plans for the kind of building that was needed, the size of the build, the kind and amount of equipment, the number of switchboard positions that would be needed, deoxyadenosine monophosphate well as many other phases .
Fancy old dial telephones - Vintage tech
After this, the equipment was ordered and manufactured by the western Electric Company. Meantime, the build up was started in January of 1957, and when it was completed in July, the equipment which had been ordered was cook to be installed .
Since then, a many as 60 highly skilled Western Electric installers worked around the clock to get the equipment in facility for the cutover Saturday night. Each subscriber ’ sulfur telephone has been tested to assure that it is in perfect operating condition, and most subscribers in town have been contacted personally, and shown how to dial a number by rights .
At the present time, there are in truth two telephone systems in Las Vegas, but alone the manual system is working. At midnight Saturday, and in legitimate and rapid-fire sequence, workmen who have been installing and testing the equipment, deoxyadenosine monophosphate well as officials of The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co will render the manual of arms servicing inoperative by cutting the cables now connecting the telephones to the old switchboard and a fraction of a second thereafter, will remove the isolate material which now keeps the dial equipment from operate .
And therefore, in a matter of a moment or possibly a short longer, Las Vegas will begin using the most modern telephone system in the world .
“ This is a great moment for we in the telephone clientele, and for the City of Las Vegas. It is something we have been wanting, and the city has been needing, for quite some clock time. While dialing is not difficult, it does require some concentration, but after everyone gets accustomed to it. I am certain they will find a bang-up share of pleasure in calling their friends steer, ” Richardson said .

The telephone way to a happier day

Ready to work perfectly whenever you twirl your dial

LIFE Aug 24, 1959 - Vintage dial telephone

For your protection…

Our employees carry this card
How to use a vintage rotary dial telephone: Top tips for callers from 1957
All telephone company employees carry an official recognition tease like this. They all understand you don ’ t concern to let unidentified people enter you home, so they ’ ll gladly show you their card before coming in. Just ask to see this wallet-size menu if you have the slightest doubt about anyone who calls “ from the call company. ”
Check the video on this official card to see that it resembles the bearer. You may besides look for the Illinois Bell sealing wax .

Recorded telephone conversations(“Beep” tone)

If you hear a “ beep ” tone at fifteen-second intervals, your call conversation is being recorded by the person you are talking to. This signal is transmitted mechanically whenever a record machine is connected to the line. It is for your auspices .
If you do not want a record made of what you are saying, ask the person with whom you ’ re talking to disconnect the recording machine. The “ honk ” signal will stop when the recorder is disconnected. Use of a recorder without this signal is unlawful .
How to use a vintage rotary dial telephone

Free personal telephone directories

They ’ re called “ Blue Books, ” and they ’ ra handy for keeping a list of the local and long-distance call numbers you call regularly. Your Service Representative will be glad to send you your Blue Book rid. Or, drop into the Business Office personally and we ’ ll be gladiolus to give you one or deoxyadenosine monophosphate many as you need.
LIFE Feb 17, 1958 Telephones

You may telephone telegrams

Your call may be used to send telegrams, radiograms and cablegrams. By arrangement with Western Union, charges for such messages will be added to your even call bill. ( From mint phones, the “ Operator ” will ask that you deposit the ask total of money. )

Dial service starts Sunday, July 21

And when your new dial system goes to work, all telephone numbers change. New numbers start with the prefixes NAtional 2 and NIagara 4. We’re mailing you a folder explaining the improvements in your telephone service.
here ’ s how to make the best use of your raw call service
1. Look up the new numbers in your newfangled directory before you call .
2. Jot down the modern issue so you don ’ triiodothyronine forget it while you dial .
3. Dial the complete number — the first base two letters and the numeral of the prefix, then the four other figures. For case, to call NAtional 2-3104, first dial N-A-2… then 3-1-0-4 .
Direct Distance Dialing starts for NAtional 2 customers with 1- or 2-party service.
Starting Sunday, July 21, if you ’ re a home 2 customer with one- or bipartisan service, you can dial most of your own long outdistance calls. You ’ ll find it ’ s thrilling to dial places like Sacramento, San Francisco, New York and Chicago. And it ’ sulfur easily as calling your next-door neighbor. Your direct Distance Dialing booklet tells you how to do it. You ’ ll want to keep the booklet for mention when you dial long distance calls .
For “ Time-of-Day ” fair dial ROchester 7-8900 – Pacific Telephone

Belle of the wall… from Western Electric

Extension rampart phones made by westerly Electric not only save you steps. They ’ ra pretty in the bargain .
Wall-mounted white kitchen telephone from 1960

Your new dial telephone comes to life tonight (1949)

Your new dial telephone is now at your service (1952)

hera are six significant things to remember when you use your dial telephone…

You knew your child was bright… (1968)

but did you know he could operate the most complex machine in the world?
western Electric helped build this machine — the countrywide Bell call network — so anyone can use it simply, easily .
You turn on this machine by lifting the handset. You dial, and millions of complex parts seek out the one total you want — out of more than 100,000,000 telephones.

Our caper in the Bell System is to build it well, so that it responds to your fingertips. Or even your child ’ south .
Simple, isn’t it?
Bell telephone bright child 1968

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