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February 21, 2020

Dialing Tips: 1950’s Instructional Film on How to Use a Rotary Dial Phone

1950s era instructional short that explains the proper procedure for using a rotary dial telephone... just in case you still have one!

The goal of this film was to aid in reducing customer dialing irregularities by demonstrating the correct way to use the dial telephone. It documents the shift between operator-based connections (which were on the way out) and having to dial the phone and make the connection yourself.

The dial telephone was new at this point, although the two-letter, 5-number system was still commonplace. This film even has to explain what a ringing and busy signal sound like!

This film opens with the demonstrator pointing out the importance of correctly using the dial telephone. Correct dialing techniques are demonstrated, with an emphasis placed on the following:
  • Be sure of the right number
  • Wait for the dial tone
  • Refer to the number while dialing
  • Turn the dial until the finger hits the finger stop
  • Avoid confusing the letter “O” with the “0”
  • The difference between ringing and busy signals
  • One by one, the conventions described in this film that aren't already gone may disappear imminently - for instance: with voicemail, the norm, when is the last time you got a busy signal on a call?
Susann Shaw, the demonstrator in this film, was a popular fashion model throughout the 1940s and 1950s, making frequent appearances in the pages of Vogue.

(Produced by Charles E. Skinner Productions. Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ)


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