Rotary dial telephone, automatic machine, telephone booth – incomprehensible things of the 20th century


Scientific and technological progress is a speculative thing most of the time, we quickly grow into new opportunities and forget about how we used something else. It is difficult for children to imagine that before it was impossible to call someone at any time and warn about changes in plans. It is difficult for them to imagine what phones were like in our childhood, the only parameter that is available to them is the size – they were big! The answer is blurted out by the clever and the clever and are waiting for praise for it. And when you add that the telephones were wired, then in response you hear – “the batteries were bad, so you lived at the network.” Imagining that a telephone can be a wired one for young people is an impossible task, this contradicts how phones look today, including at home. In some places there are old devices, but almost nowhere are they with a disk dialer.

In the series about the 90s “Mir. Friendship. Chewing gum” there is a separate series about shooting, a film about the film. And there at one point teenagers admit that it was a test for them to use an ordinary landline phone with a disk. A very bright series and it can be called honest in relation to that time, I would like to take this opportunity to recommend it. But back to the teenagers, they tried to spin the disc without lifting their finger! Did not work! People who knew how to use telephones grew up with them, looked at it in bewilderment, dialing a number presented no difficulties for them.

There is no gap between us in hundreds of years, moreover, our life experience is more or less similar, but look how technologies have changed, they have become a puzzle. Do you want to ask you another problem? Look at a moment from The Dark Side of the Moon (another great show about the 70s and time travel, the first season was interesting).

Dial telephone, automatic machine, telephone booth - incomprehensible things of the 20th century

People who grew up in the USSR easily recognize the tricks of the punks, they unscrewed the speaker in the telephone receiver and left bare wires. When someone inadvertently leaned the receiver to his ear, he received a small electric shock. In the picture, the wires just stick out, but no one did that, they were masked behind bars so that they could not be noticed. As a child, I fell into this trap a couple of times.

Dial telephone, automatic machine, telephone booth - incomprehensible things of the 20th centuryDial telephone, automatic machine, telephone booth - incomprehensible things of the 20th century

Another moment from the film, kopeck piece on a string. The cost of a conversation in a machine was 2 kopecks, and one could pay with either one coin or two kopecks. On the street there were always those who asked to change two kopecks in order to call. The Soviet people set aside such coins so that they could call their home numbers from the city.

In the American films that we watched on videotapes, there was one important difference between telephone boxes, from those that were in our country, they could be called. A man is walking by, and here a phone on the street rings nearby, it seemed to us the height of technology development. Our communication has always been one-way, and machines often swallowed money without connecting to the subscriber. Yes, and it was possible to call only within the boundaries of your locality, for communication with another city you had to go to a telephone center, it was often combined with large post offices.

Two on a string is an invention of those who did not like to pay for communication, and for other little things. When there was a connection with the subscriber, and the machine was swallowing a coin, then with the help of a thread it was possible to pull it out. Frugality was manifested not only in this, often such people very carefully used a punch in transport, tickets were sold at stops and they had to be punched out on their own. Holes appeared after the punch, the ticket became unusable. Controllers entering a bus or other transport, first punch a sheet of paper to see the drawing, in each punch it was unique. And then they checked the tickets of those who were traveling.

So, some people made minimal effort so that the punches of the punch did not break the ticket, it could be ironed with an iron and reused. There was a legend about a thrifty man who, with the help of an iron, knew how to smooth tickets up to twenty times.

In Leningrad, a kopeck piece on a string was often worn around the neck, both by girls and boys. In the 80s, it was a kind of social network that arose thanks to decade-step PBX. Before the Olympics, the State Security Committee (KGB for short) had a bright idea to take control of all speculators, to control their communication with foreigners. One of the tools for this was ordinary telephone booths and the PBX feature, which was known in the West, but was not used by anyone in the USSR. When you call a non-existent number, you did not receive a hang-up, but could connect with another person who called the same number. The speculators were given several numbers and they happily began to use them, share information, for the first time this happened in 1979. Before the Olympics itself, the ranks of speculators thinned out, and the fact that many got burned on reliable communication through telephone booths became common knowledge in narrow circles. The KGB lost interest in this tool, but suddenly information about such an opportunity appeared among young people and they began to look for non-existent numbers. The conversation on the air, and this is exactly what this prototype of the social network was called, resembled a cacophony – everyone said something different, someone was hiding behind nicknames, someone called their real name. There were arguments, shouts, noise and din. Ether quickly became a social phenomenon where young people could find an outlet and talk about what worries them.

A hierarchy arose by itself, there were kings of the ether, informal leaders. The inhabitants of the ether gathered in real life, made friends and feuded. It was a prototype of a social network, but all communication was carried out exclusively by voice. Telephone exchanges fought the airwaves and tried to close the numbers that became known. Moreover, those who aired from their home numbers could face their disconnection. Craftsmen learned how to create signal amplifiers, small boxes connected to the phone amplified the voice of their owner and made it stand out in a conversation – the sound was loud and clear.

Nowhere except Leningrad did not receive broadcasting, it was a phenomenon that in the late 80s even supported the Komsomol. But history by itself came to naught, computers, social networks appeared, and they forgot about the Leningrad broadcast. Just like a kopeck piece on a string has ceased to mean at least something for today’s teenagers.

In one of the museums in New York there is a wall on which the telephone receivers are located, in each of them there is some sound from the past, it must be guessed. None of the young people can guess the turn of the dial of the phone, the familiar brute force. This is something that has already disappeared from their lives. Exactly the same story with the sound of a regular dial-up modem, also sound from the distant past. Is it a ringtone? ”They ask and look puzzled,“ but it’s ugly.

You explain to the children about wired telephones that only these were at home and not everyone had them. That apparatuses were valued in which there was a long cord, so that with it you could go somewhere far, for example, climb onto a bed in another room.

Dial telephone, automatic machine, telephone booth - incomprehensible things of the 20th century

It is even more difficult to explain what a paired phone is. This is when you and your neighbors received different numbers, but the line to the PBX was the same. Therefore, it was impossible to call when the neighbors were talking, however, as well as to get through to you. The trick was that it was possible to break the female invisible hair clip and attach it to the microphone through the holes. And then carefully insert it into a 220-volt outlet, after which the conversation of the neighbors was interrupted. The unspoken rule was that when the conversation was interrupted like this, you did not use the phone for about an hour. For teenagers it was a painful test of time and we chatted as much as our children do today. But we simply did not have the opportunity to chat somewhere on the street or in nature. Communication was limited to the house, sometimes to the institute, where they could call on the watch, and the duty officer was looking for you throughout the building. But this was discouraged.

On the other hand, rewinding history back, we can say that we did not know many of the devices that were common in the West. In the excellent series “The Amazing Mrs. Maisel,” you can find scenes in which they show which devices have expanded the capabilities of home phones.

Dial telephone, automatic machine, telephone booth - incomprehensible things of the 20th century

This scene uses an additional speaker as well as an ear tube so that the second person can participate in the conversation, decades before the invention of the speakerphone. Scrolling through the past daily life of us, our parents, you can find many interesting artifacts. But what surprised me, although it is absolutely normal, that our children often cannot guess what kind of technology we used, how and for what. It is possible that their children will not be able to understand how it was possible to type on a physical keyboard, and not enter all the information with an effort of thought.

Which of the technologies of the past do you remember and what do you think will puzzle today’s children and adolescents? Let us know in the comments.

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