Author Topic: Old dial tone  (Read 27758 times)

Offline Phonesrfun

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Old dial tone
« on: May 09, 2010, 04:39:35 PM »
OK, this forum is about Rotary Phones.  Here is something that is relavant to rotary telephones, and particularly the dial tones "way back in the good ol' days".

Currently, in the US and some other countries, the dial tone we hear is one that came about in the 1960's and implemented as part of putting in Touch-Tone service.  It is called a "precise dial tone", and consists of two frequencies blended together of 350 and 440 Hz.  The reason for going to the new dial tone is that the older tones had frequencies and overtones that would interfere with the Touch-Tone (DTMF) dialing.  DTMF stands for Dual Tone Multi Frequency.

If you have a sound card in your computer and a program that can produce two simultaneous tones, you can actually make your computer sound card produce a dial tone.  In fact, with all the DTMF frequencies that are used for the digits 1 through 0, and the asterisk and the pound sign, you can actually program your computer to dial a number if you hold the handset up close to the computer speaker.

But I digress...

As I mentioned, the precise dial tone came into being in the mid 60's as part of the Touch-Tone conversion.  This happened in my neighborhood in 1967 when I was 16 years old.  Prior to the precise dial tone, depending on where you lived and what phone company you were on and what type of equipment was in the central office, there were a whole variety of dial tones out there.  So, if you ask an old-timer about old dial tone, there will be a variety of opinions of what "old dial tone" sounded like.

They were everything from just a buzzer hooked into the circuit to some sophisticated tones that had been developed by Ma Bell after the war.

I have heard both the buzz and the post-war dial tone.  I grew up in an area in Portland, OR where we were on Bell system, but just a few blocks away was the boundary between Bell System and West Coast Telephone, later GTE.  Theirs was more of a buzz.  At home, we had the more modern post-war dial tone that the Bell System standardized on until they switched to precise dial tone.

That post-war dial tone is a 600 Hz tone modulated by 120 Hz.  There is no way I have figured out to modulate a tone with another tone on the computer sound card.  Maybe there is, but my skills in this area are not all that good.  However, with an intergrated circuit chip, it is possible.  Last year, I did a bunch of research into old dial tone, and as a result of contacting a collector named Chuck Richards, I was able to build his circuit.

While I cannot get a computer to actually make the tone, I can, of course record the tone from the tone generator I built.  So without further adieu, here is a .wav file of the dial tone.  How many of you recognize it?

-Bill G

Offline Jim S.

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2010, 05:00:24 PM »
My grandparents had the same or similar dial tone. The were served by a telephone CO-OP out of  Burlington, CO. by similar, Theirs may of been a slightly different pitch.

I was always scolded for playing with telephones. In this case I checked the dial tone on their 302-type phone to  make sure it sounded right and it didn't.

 I was never allowed to experiment with the other tones.

At the time I wanted to know if the difference was from the phone style or company. My Mom said Company (ex operator). I suspected it was from the phone because I thought all phone co's were Bell. She was right.


Back in the day, most adults frowned on kids playing with telephones. Mom didn't mind me experimenting within reason.
Jim
You live, You learn,
You die, you forget it all.

Offline baldopeacock

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2010, 06:35:52 PM »
I'd almost forgotten that old dial tone, but not quite.   I would have been 11 when Ma Bell made that transition.   Thanks for the revisit.

Offline Dennis Markham

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2010, 10:18:19 PM »
Bill, your posting is very interesting.  I enjoyed listening to the dial tone, but I have to say I don't remember specifically that tone as opposed to what we have now.  I know there is a big difference, but I guess I just never paid attention at the time.

Offline savageje

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2010, 10:51:25 PM »
Bill:

Thanks for the interesting post.  The current dial tone is the only one I remember, although I've heard something very similar to the one you posted in old movies and TV shows.  Prior to the introduction of DTMF, was there any technical reason why the tone had to be a certain way, or could it basically have been anything?  I have heard the old "buzz" in a Bell System film on YouTube, and it seems to be a very nerve-grating noise, to say the least.  Glad that didn't last!
« Last Edit: May 09, 2010, 10:53:04 PM by savageje »

Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2010, 11:16:56 PM »
Before DTMF, it could have been anything, and in practice, it was almost anything.
-Bill G

Offline bingster

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2010, 04:33:33 PM »
Here are a few that I've picked up around the net.  I think some of them came from the Bell System Memorial site. 
« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 04:35:50 PM by bingster »
= DARRIN =



Offline bingster

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2010, 04:34:39 PM »
And an old ringback for good measure:
= DARRIN =



Offline jsowers

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2010, 04:57:12 PM »
I recall from childhood that the RE1-2xxx numbers in the small community I still live in sounded different in the ringing tone when called than the other numbers like mine that were RE1-4xxx. The busy signal also sounded strange. This all changed when they brought in digital switching equipment in the 1980s. It resembled the old dial tone and busy signals Bingster posted, but with a little more of a bass note. Almost like the sound a ceramic phono pickup makes when you touch one of the leads. Maybe a 60-cycle hum?

I also remember the busy signal in a small community called Denton after I started working for the school system in 1985 and I had to call the school there. It was a honk-honk-honk sound similar to Hoppy the Kangaroo on the Flintstones. Hoppy was Dino's counterpart over at Barney and Betty Rubble's house, in case you need to know. I laughed every time I heard that. It's gone now too, many years ago.
Jonathan

Offline McHeath

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2010, 07:06:01 PM »
I never knew any but the current tones, but I have heard them in old movies. 

That old busy tone 2 sounds like it should be in a low budget science fiction flick from the 50's.   ;)

Offline Dan/Panther

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2010, 11:03:00 PM »
I go back farther than I want to admit, but I don't recall any of the old versions.
D/P

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Online JorgeAmely

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2010, 12:17:08 AM »

If you have a sound card in your computer and a program that can produce two simultaneous tones, you can actually make your computer sound card produce a dial tone.  In fact, with all the DTMF frequencies that are used for the digits 1 through 0, and the asterisk and the pound sign, you can actually program your computer to dial a number if you hold the handset up close to the computer speaker.


Bill: Someone already wrote such program. I use it with my phones and works very well.

http://www.silverstones.com/DTMFDial.html

------------------

EDIT:  the above link works but the download links at that site are dead, so, no longer available

« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 11:29:10 PM by TelePlay »
Jorge

Offline AtomicEraTom

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2010, 01:39:06 AM »
I don't remember anything but what we got today, but being born post Bell System breakup, I spose it would make it impossible for me to anyways.
I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main roads. Searchin' in the sun for another overload.  I hear you singin' in the wires, I can hear you through the whine, and the Witchita Lineman is still on the line.

Offline rp2813

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2010, 11:39:43 PM »
I do remember the old dial tone and busy, like "busy-old 1" on the list above.  Interestingly, we still had those tones until 1980 or so but in the late 60's a friend down the street got an early version of "modern" dial tone that sounded more harmonica-like.  When the upgrades came in the early 80's and switches were converted to electronic, at home we got optional services available like Call Waiting.  The friend down the street remained on a Crossbar switch for a good ten years and couldn't get any of the new features until the early 90's. 

Is there any recording of the warped siren sound that you'd get when you confused the hell out of the system?  As kids we would do all kinds of crazy dialing just to produce that sound.  There's a particular name applied to the sound, but I can't currently put my hands on my 1945 directory that refers to it.
Ralph

Offline keysys

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Re: Old dial tone
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2010, 02:29:01 AM »
Is there any recording of the warped siren sound that you'd get when you confused the hell out of the system?  As kids we would do all kinds of crazy dialing just to produce that sound.  There's a particular name applied to the sound, but I can't currently put my hands on my 1945 directory that refers to it.

Wrong dialing tone/wrong dialing signal
Vacant level tone
The "crybaby" tone

http://www.wideweb.com/phonetrips/
then select "Supplemental Sounds of Step - Part 1".