Research, analysis, and thought leadership for enterprise communications.

Words of the Times

by in Telecom

My spell checker will no longer recognize the word “dialtone.” It is so uncommonly used that it has been removed from many dictionaries. It used to be accepted as a single word. Now, you must use “dial tone” as two words.

But more interesting is that most youths 15 years old or younger don’t know what a dialtone is. They don’t know to listen for it or what it means, or why they should care about it.

Even more surprising is that the busy signal is no longer recognized by most youths. When they were handed a handset playing a busy signal they just shrugged their shoulders and indicated they didn’t know what it meant.

Pretty much anybody under 35 doesn’t know how to operate a rotary dial phone. I was at a party and brought out a rotary phone. Nobody under 35 knew how to make it work.

Think I’m making this stuff up? Then, you should watch this totally cute video of children seeing a rotary dial phone for the first time:

Really, its a funny video if you are over about 45. See kids not know how to use a rotary phone and not know what a busy signal is.

Moral: The next time you design a phone system, don’t start with the assumptions of what was taken for granted in 1980.


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About this Post


Colin Berkshire is a highly technical HR executive in the Pulp and Paper Industry. Colin has an engineering and voice background, and is currently on assignment in Asia. NOTE: Colin does not respond to comments, and does not Tweet.