November 18 – Push-Button Phone Day

Posted November 18, 2013

Before my time, people used to make phone calls by asking operators to reach a certain person or number. You couldn't make the call yourself!

When I was a kid, we used to dial phone numbers ourself, but with a rotary dial. Finally, in the early 1940s an innovator named Henry Dryfus thought “outside of the box” and came up with a great idea: a push-button phone.

This was Dryfus's wooden model for his
groundbreaking idea!
On this date in 1963, the first push-button phones were put on the market. 

I wonder if people lined up overnight for new release, like they do with every iPhone. (I'm thinking not.)

What were the benefits of push-button phones?

Well, trust me, it's a lot faster to dial a number by pushing buttons. With a rotary dial, you had to stick your finger in the right hole and then rotate the dial all the way around to the dial-stop. It took a lot longer for 9s and 0s to get the dial ALL THE WAY AROUND – yikes! – that it took for 1s and 2s. So if someone had a phone number with a lot of 9s and 0s (like I do! My phone number has three 9s and four 0s!), you'd almost rather change friends than go through all that effort to dial that number!

Also, along with the push buttons, we now had “Touch-Tone” phones with a particular tone is associated with each button. So then we could do all sorts of data entry using our keypads: you know, the whole “Dial one for Spanish language” thing, the whole “Enter your account number, followed by a pound sign” thing.

A lot of modern phones now use the flat-touch-screen system that only shows a picture of push buttons for us to press! And the beat goes on....

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