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Old 01-17-2019, 12:54 PM
Enola Straight Enola Straight is offline
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Baffled by rotary phones

Behold...children, teenagers, and Millenials struggle to operate obsolete...but at one time, ubiquitous...technology.
https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...y=rotary+phone
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Old 01-17-2019, 12:59 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
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LOL

My kitchen wall phone is rotary. I can't dial it anymore since getting AT&T UVERSE. It doesn't recognize dial pulses. I can answer that phone. I keep it mostly for nostalgia.

I don't understand why younger people have trouble with rotary phones? It's obvious that to dial a 6 you put your finger in the hole. Can't they figure out you turn the wheel until it stops?

Last edited by aceplace57; 01-17-2019 at 01:04 PM.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:02 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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I have a rotary phone lying about. I'd use it, only there's a loose wire in the handset and I don't know if I have the skills to fix it.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
I don't understand why younger people have trouble with rotary phones? It's obvious that to dial a 6 you put your finger in the hole. Can't they figure out you turn the wheel until it stops?
Because children not having trouble with a rotary phone doesn't get clicks.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:25 PM
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Because children not having trouble with a rotary phone doesn't get clicks.
Which is how a rotary phone works.
Getting clicks.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:29 PM
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They will stare at it.

They will poke their fingers in the holes...and let go, like the holes were buttons.

They will wind up the rotor by grabbing it with their entire hand and twist it.

They will try to wind the rotor counter-clockwise.

They will start by putting their finger in the 0 and stopping at the 3 instead of starting at the 3 and going all the way until their finger can't move anymore (that little silver finger-stop...whatever that's called )



And they will do all this WITHOUT picking up the receiver to their ear.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:32 PM
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Don't they even know how to click the cradle a few times and ask the operator?
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:41 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
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Remember how satisfying it was to slam the handset onto the hook?

Great way to release stress and the Ma Bell phones were practically indestructible. They took a lot of abuse without needing servicing.

I remember being frustrated getting a busy signal. After redialing a few times I'd spin that wheel hard. Getting a sore finger as it hit the stop.

Good times.

Last edited by aceplace57; 01-17-2019 at 01:44 PM.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:44 PM
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Show them a candlestick phone and see what happens
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:07 PM
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My question is: "Have they never watched an old movie with a rotary phone?"

I mean, I'd know that older phone systems required me to actually talk to an operator to connect me with something, and I'd know how to use a candlestick phone as well, solely from watching old movies.

Millenials seem.... special. I don't know if it's just gloating articles written to make them look that way, or if it's a real thing, but I see more stuff about them being barely functional in the adult world than for any other group.

Stuff like this:

https://abc7chicago.com/politics/not...eport/4319971/

or the idea that there are "adulting" classes for millenials. WTF? You need a class to explain how to have your shit minimally together enough to function? What did your parents do all those years when you were growing up?
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:14 PM
Hilarity N. Suze Hilarity N. Suze is offline
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In the last few years before cell phones were everywhere, I still had all the numbers memorized that I would need on a daily basis (work, best friend, best friend's work, boss's home, Domino's, tennis court, dance studio, kids' doctor, kids' schools, etc.). I had a rotary dial phone downstairs that I rarely used, but when I used it I realized that the system I used to memorize numbers in those days was more of the pattern, and there were some numbers I couldn't remember if I dialed them on the rotary phone rather than punched them into the other phones. So I would sit there and stare at it for a moment--what do I do? But I always figured it out.
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:19 PM
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Remember how satisfying it was to slam the handset onto the hook?

Great way to release stress and the Ma Bell phones were practically indestructible. They took a lot of abuse without needing servicing.
Yeah. Right after divestiture I went to a talk about how to manufacture Western Electric phones so that they'd be less solid, since fewer people wanted to rent them.
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:21 PM
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Fun fact about rotary phones - you could dial them by clicking the handset the appropriate number of times fast. 1 click for 1, 10 for 0.

Fun to do once. At MIT we had rotary phones for our in-dorm network, which used only five numbers, so easier to do it there.
  #14  
Old 01-17-2019, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Enola Straight View Post
Behold...children, teenagers, and Millenials struggle to operate obsolete...but at one time, ubiquitous...technology.
https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...y=rotary+phone
In my opinion, fake and staged, like a huge percentage of the videos that "go viral" on social media.
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:43 PM
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For the vanishingly few remaining rotary phones, the least we can do is post instructions on how to use them - in cursive handwriting.
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:56 PM
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. . . You need a class to explain how to have your shit minimally together enough to function? What did your parents do all those years when you were growing up?
Everything! that's why they cant do anything for them selves.

I was walking by my Junior High school (grades 7 & 8) a while back, and was amazed to see the old bike rack still where it always was. I think it might even be the same one from 40 years ago. The amazing thing, tho, was there was not one bike locked to it. NOT ONE! Not only that, but there was a line of cars waiting to pick up the kids. These are 13 & 14 year olds! At a school that serves an area of maybe a 2 mile radius! In a suburb! now I know I'm treading dangerously close to old man territory (I have to regularly remind myself to stop shaking my fist at the world) but COME ON! If your 14yo cant even get to school and home again by themselves what hope is there for them to actually do something that may actually require effort?

(grumble grumble)

mc
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:56 PM
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For the vanishingly few remaining rotary phones, the least we can do is post instructions on how to use them - in cursive handwriting.
If it is a public telephone, the kids also need to get their hands on some of those little metal discs.
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Old 01-17-2019, 04:08 PM
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We had a rotary phone in the kitchen years ago.

Sometimes a friend of the kids would want to call home. The stares they gave the phone trying to get their head around what they were looking at were priceless.

But they all figured it out within a few seconds. It's not rocket science*.

* Umm, just ignore those things above the grids of buttons. (I knew someone who did wiring on those things.)

Last edited by ftg; 01-17-2019 at 04:08 PM.
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Old 01-17-2019, 04:15 PM
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At MIT we had rotary phones for our in-dorm network, which used only five numbers, so easier to do it there.
When I moved to the Antelope Valley in '76, they had five-digit dialing. The prefixes in Lancaster were 94x. So you could dial, say, 3-5583 and get connected. But Palmdale, seven miles away, was a long-distance call that required dialing a '1', and then the seven-digit number (1-947-xxxx).
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Old 01-17-2019, 04:24 PM
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If it is a public telephone, the kids also need to get their hands on some of those little metal discs.
That reminds me of this music video (about 3:20) where the star has to step into a phone booth to make a call on her cell phone.



And really frustrating is that there is a row of payphones in the baggage claim of the SFO airport that has seats and little counters in front of them to make it convenient to use them and there are always millennials in the seats with junk spread out on the counters using their cell phones. There's plenty of other seating in the area since they remodeled it a couple of years ago. These people are just oblivious to the function of the phones or that someone might want to use it.

And there was the argument I had with a popular "urbanist" blog writer who contended that the new mass transit fare collection system was oppressive to the poor because you had to either log in to the internet or make a phone call to get your deposit refunded. He claimed that there were no public payphones in the entire city (he didn't know where to find one) and the poor didn't have access to phones or internet.
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Old 01-17-2019, 04:33 PM
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Millenials seem.... special. I don't know if it's just gloating articles written to make them look that way, or if it's a real thing, but I see more stuff about them being barely functional in the adult world than for any other group.

Stuff like this:

https://abc7chicago.com/politics/not...eport/4319971/

or the idea that there are "adulting" classes for millenials. WTF? You need a class to explain how to have your shit minimally together enough to function? What did your parents do all those years when you were growing up?
You do know 'millenials' refers to the age group currently between around 22 and 37, right? Your new college students are probably 'generation Z' (nice apocalyptic feel, that name). It's not just you, half the articles you read claim 'millenials don't know x!' and when you read it, it's a survey of 14 year olds. 14 year olds don't know all the stuff adults do, especially when it comes to totally obsolete stuff. Why should they?

I'm a millenial; we had a rotary phone until I was 8. It's not a skill I consider in any way useful, and I highly doubt I'd bother teaching it to my hypothetical children, but yes, I can remember how to use one.

Regards,
The only generation that could set the time on a VCR.
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Old 01-17-2019, 04:34 PM
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Show them a candlestick phone and see what happens
Probably "Damn, that thing's heavy!"
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Old 01-17-2019, 04:35 PM
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I know I'm treading dangerously close to old man territory

mc
You're not close. You're frolicking in it.
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Old 01-17-2019, 04:37 PM
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You do know 'millenials' refers to the age group currently between around 22 and 37, right? Your new college students are probably 'generation Z' (nice apocalyptic feel, that name). It's not just you, half the articles you read claim 'millenials don't know x!' and when you read it, it's a survey of 14 year olds. 14 year olds don't know all the stuff adults do, especially when it comes to totally obsolete stuff. Why should they?

I'm a millenial; we had a rotary phone until I was 8. It's not a skill I consider in any way useful, and I highly doubt I'd bother teaching it to my hypothetical children, but yes, I can remember how to use one.

Regards,
The only generation that could set the time on a VCR.
Don't worry, you and I will eventually hit the "everyone younger than me is stupid and lazy" phase eventually too.
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Old 01-17-2019, 05:43 PM
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Fun fact about rotary phones - you could dial them by clicking the handset the appropriate number of times fast. 1 click for 1, 10 for 0.

Fun to do once. At MIT we had rotary phones for our in-dorm network, which used only five numbers, so easier to do it there.
In the system we had (only 4 digits), you could cut-in on a line that was in-use by dialing the number, except minus one on the final digit (if the number was 4567, dial 4566) and just when the dial clicked the last click, if you clicked it manually, it would connect you to the line in use. So, if someone was hogging the line of someone you needed to call, you could get in. I have no idea how or who figured this out,
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Old 01-17-2019, 05:55 PM
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Add me to the group that believes this crap is staged.
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Old 01-17-2019, 06:10 PM
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I was walking by my Junior High school (grades 7 & 8) a while back, and was amazed to see the old bike rack still where it always was. I think it might even be the same one from 40 years ago. The amazing thing, tho, was there was not one bike locked to it. NOT ONE!
This got me curious. I had to use Google maps and street view, but I looked at my old suburban middle school, and there seem to be lots of bikes there.

I've completely forgotten how to use a rotary phone. I used to know the Hayes AT command code to switch to pulse dialing, because we had two phone lines: one with touch tone, and one that was dial only. Now I don't remember what that AT command is. I remember atdt to call a number, but not how to switch to pulse. If it were 1985 and I was trying to get on a BBS I'd be flailing around like those kids.
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Old 01-17-2019, 06:29 PM
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You do know 'millenials' refers to the age group currently between around 22 and 37, right? Your new college students are probably 'generation Z' (nice apocalyptic feel, that name). It's not just you, half the articles you read claim 'millenials don't know x!' and when you read it, it's a survey of 14 year olds. 14 year olds don't know all the stuff adults do, especially when it comes to totally obsolete stuff. Why should they?
Personally, I don't think they should know this. I'm just amused that something that was common knowledge for everyone is not now known by the newer generations. There are probably things that I never knew how to do that were common knowledge for generations that proceeded me. (For example, until 100-150 years ago or so, most people had regular experience riding horses or horse carts or oxcarts and relied on candles or lanterns for illumination. Sending and receiving telegrams was common, but not for decades.)
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Old 01-17-2019, 06:44 PM
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Yeah. Right after divestiture I went to a talk about how to manufacture Western Electric phones so that they'd be less solid, since fewer people wanted to rent them.

I raw thinking about this when the thread first started (but didn't want to take it on a tangent yet.) You used to have to rent the phones, not own them. I still remember as a kid in the 80s my family buying a phone for the first time (with Green Stamps!) and there was this special number you were supposed to call to register your new phone with the phone company (surely entirety bogus--the thing was purely plug and play.)
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Old 01-17-2019, 06:53 PM
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I don't think that it's necessarily staged, per se, but edited to the same effect. Show a piece of old technology to a bunch of youngsters, some will already know it because they like retro stuff, some will find it intuitive enough to figure it out quickly, some will experiment a bit and figure it out, and some will show various degrees of bafflement. Pick and choose the right set of genuine reactions, and show only those, and you can spin any narrative you want.

It's the same effect that you get with those "man on the street" interviews that have been popular on late-night shows since forever.
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Old 01-17-2019, 07:20 PM
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I still have a dial phone in my house and it still works (that is the cable company I get phone service from still accepts pulse phones). I don't use it very often. Now if only I could figure out all the functions on my cell phone.
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Old 01-17-2019, 07:43 PM
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My 87 year old father emailed this same video to me last week. I thought it was funny but doesn't necessarily say anything bad about the kids. I am in my late 50's but have worked with folks in their teens and 20's. It is fun to discuss with them all kinds of different things. And fun to make fun of one another about all the crap we don't know relative to our ages.

(the email was forwarded from a cousin in Australia; I guess this video has gotten around a bit)

Last edited by Bonnie14; 01-17-2019 at 07:45 PM. Reason: additional info
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:01 PM
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Everyone that makes fun of youth and their lack of skills with older technology should be required to show proficiency in harnessing a horse and connecting it to a buckboard. Taking it for a 2 mile trip would earn a gold star. Then they can laugh. I did this all not too many years ago.
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:23 PM
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In the last few years before cell phones were everywhere, I still had all the numbers memorized that I would need on a daily basis... there were some numbers I couldn't remember if I dialed them on the rotary phone rather than punched them into the other phones.
Never thought this anecdote would be relevant to a Dope thread, but J.R., my best friend in 7th grade, had a phone number that took FOREVER on a rotary phone (588-0088). You'd crank those eights and zeroes around and tap your foot impatiently as it clackety-clacked back... sooo slowwwwly...

Suddenly it was the future, and Touch-Tone™ phones showed up. And my friend's number was the fastest. A couple of taps down the middle of the phone.

(Hmmm, I should ask my old friends if any of us phoned J.R. more often after that)
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:34 PM
Arjuna34 Arjuna34 is offline
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Now I don't remember what that AT command is. I remember atdt to call a number, but not how to switch to pulse. If it were 1985 and I was trying to get on a BBS I'd be flailing around like those kids.
D = dial command, with T or P as modifiers:

ATDT = dial with touch tone
ATDP = dial with pulse

ATD = dial with default method (varied I think)
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:53 PM
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That's nothing. See if they can figure out what to do with this.
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Old 01-17-2019, 09:27 PM
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Fun fact about rotary phones - you could dial them by clicking the handset the appropriate number of times fast. 1 click for 1, 10 for 0.

Fun to do once. At MIT we had rotary phones for our in-dorm network, which used only five numbers, so easier to do it there.
In my dorm (1975), the switch panel was in the hallway. I showed someone how I could take a pair of headphones and tap the plug on the contacts of any phone line I wanted to place a call. The problem was that there was no microphone so I couldn't talk.
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Old 01-17-2019, 11:25 PM
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We were just talking yesterday about whether some classic pieces of art, like this by Claes Oldenburg, make any sense to anyone under 50.


If you don't want to click, it's a scaled-up sculpture of a "Typewriter Eraser".



ETA: I miss phone-hacking, using pranks from Steal This Book and 2600 (the hacker's magazine named after the frequency used with pay phones... if I got the number right).

Last edited by digs; 01-17-2019 at 11:27 PM.
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Old 01-17-2019, 11:39 PM
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The first phones you could buy were push button, but the one I had included a switch you could set for dial pulse or touchtone. The BoCs charged more for touchtone, though since it tied up the network less during dialing it was cheaper. We had dial pulse service, but I found that if I set the phone for touchtone it worked just as well. I think they figured this out about three years after I started it.
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Old 01-18-2019, 12:58 AM
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That's nothing. My aunt was babysitting her grandson, and he pointed at the phone on the wall on her kitchen, asking what it was, since my cousins don't have a landline.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
Remember how satisfying it was to slam the handset onto the hook?
Oh, what I wouldn't GIVE to be able to do that to telemarketers again. And prank calling isn't as easy as it used to be, like it was when we were kids.

But what really sucked is even after you got a push-button phone, you had to have your house rewired for it, otherwise you'd still get that da-da-da-da...
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Old 01-18-2019, 01:34 AM
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I'm a millenial; we had a rotary phone until I was 8. It's not a skill I consider in any way useful, and I highly doubt I'd bother teaching it to my hypothetical children, but yes, I can remember how to use one.
Point being, it's hardly a "skill"; not more so than operating a crank pencil sharpener or using a radio with dials instead of a digital display and buttons. Even if you initially mess it up somehow, there's only so many movement options that make sense.
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The only generation that could set the time on a VCR.
C'mon now, you can't be both a Millennial AND Generation X (dumb articles about "Xennials" need not apply)

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  #42  
Old 01-18-2019, 08:47 AM
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I saw this video a few days ago and thought it was a fascinating display of how unintuitive rotary phones are. I mean, it's not like 17 year olds are dumber today than boomers (the opposite is true, based on the Flynn effect). And it's not like boomers were born with some innate knowledge of how rotary phones work -- they were taught how to use them, which 17-year-olds aren't, for obvious reasons.

Consider how much better it is to dial a number prior to initiating the handset -- you can back up if you make a mistake, you can verify the number is correct before hitting "call." You can store the number in memory. And it's not like this is exclusive to smartphones, cordless phones have been allowing you to dial the number before hitting "call" since the 80s. That's just how phones have worked for most of this 39-year-old's life, and the only reason I have any clue about pulse dialing is that my parents were incredibly cheap. And that's really the key to knowing how a rotary phone should work -- if all you've ever known is touch-tone dialing (which was introduced in 1963, according to my google search just now), the idea of having to submit a certain number of clicks to make a phone call is absolutely not what anyone would expect a phone to do.

Don't get me wrong, I think rotary phones are marvel of simplicity in design, but that simplicity was a technological limitation, not an intentional design choice.

eta: Also, I was proud of the boys for eventually figuring it out. Really didn't take them that long in the grand scheme of things, and it was actually a bit of a wholesome moment between parents and teens.

Last edited by steronz; 01-18-2019 at 08:49 AM.
  #43  
Old 01-18-2019, 09:03 AM
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I was just reading that all service providers in Finland are phasing out landline phones altogether, really making things like rotary phones obsolete tech. I'm 40 and I never had a landline phone of my own - got my first cellphone in '97, a bit before I moved out. We did have a rotary phone when I was a kid but switched to a phone with buttons around '90, I think.
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Old 01-18-2019, 09:50 AM
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Remember how satisfying it was to slam the handset onto the hook?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinastasia View Post
Oh, what I wouldn't GIVE to be able to do that to telemarketers again.
I've always wondered what was the point? Once the cradle buttons are depressed, the connection is severed. So no matter how violently you slam the handset down, the person on the other end is only going to hear a small part of your anger.
  #45  
Old 01-18-2019, 10:37 AM
bump bump is offline
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Originally Posted by Filbert View Post
You do know 'millenials' refers to the age group currently between around 22 and 37, right? Your new college students are probably 'generation Z' (nice apocalyptic feel, that name). It's not just you, half the articles you read claim 'millenials don't know x!' and when you read it, it's a survey of 14 year olds. 14 year olds don't know all the stuff adults do, especially when it comes to totally obsolete stuff. Why should they?

I'm a millenial; we had a rotary phone until I was 8. It's not a skill I consider in any way useful, and I highly doubt I'd bother teaching it to my hypothetical children, but yes, I can remember how to use one.

Regards,
The only generation that could set the time on a VCR.
Of course I know that, and I think the generational cohorts don't align very well with the social cohorts either. For example, they say Gen X is from something like 1965-1980, and that Millenials are 1981-1996. In my experience, there's a pretty huge difference in the say... pre 1976 Gen Xers and the ones born afterward, and it mostly surrounds the age at which they were when computers/technology became a major cultural force- the older Gen Xers didn't grow up in a technology-centric world or one with helicopter parents, while the younger ones did, and are more like millenials in many ways. And similarly, the younger millenials seem to have more in common with the 15-22 crowd than the 37 year olds on the far end of their cohort.

I'm still amazed when I read things about younger people not voting because they don't know how to obtain stamps. Not because they don't just magically know, but because they don't seem to have the motivation to find out how. Or this whole "adulting" concept- I'll be the first to admit that there's definitely a learning curve on figuring out how to live on your own, it's not something I ever conceived of as needing a class to negotiate, or something you had an option to fail at or even choose .

I'm not trying to be the grumpy 46 year old guy who's sneering at "kids these days", but I have to admit that some of the things that they're reported as doing are headscratchingly strange, and that's why I wonder if it's just reporting intended to smear them, or if that stuff is actually true?
  #46  
Old 01-18-2019, 10:57 AM
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Chronos Chronos is offline
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For what it's worth, I was born in 1977, and the first time I ever encountered the term "millennial" was when I was forwarded an e-mail from my sister (born 1975) with a bunch of cultural touchstones we had in common, and proclaiming that age cohort to be "millennials".

Of course, who do you think I now hear the most complaints about "millennials" from?

But then again, she also complains about kids learning "new math", instead of the way we were taught it.
  #47  
Old 01-18-2019, 11:41 AM
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muldoonthief muldoonthief is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Filbert View Post
I'm a millenial; we had a rotary phone until I was 8. It's not a skill I consider in any way useful, and I highly doubt I'd bother teaching it to my hypothetical children, but yes, I can remember how to use one.

Regards,
The only generation that could set the time on a VCR.
WTF? I'm an old Gen Xer, and I was setting time on a VCR when you were just a gleam in your father's eye. We Gen Xers had to do it for our Boomer & Greatest Generation parents.

And I've still got a rotary phone on my desk at work. Even in 2019 cable modems/MTAs still have to support rotary/pulse dialing to pass FCC & other country compliance testing.

Last edited by muldoonthief; 01-18-2019 at 11:43 AM.
  #48  
Old 01-18-2019, 11:47 AM
cochrane cochrane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muldoonthief View Post
WTF? I'm an old Gen Xer, and I was setting time on a VCR when you were just a gleam in your father's eye. We Gen Xers had to do it for our Boomer & Greatest Generation parents.
I'm a Boomer myself. I was the one who set the VCR in our house.
  #49  
Old 01-18-2019, 02:00 PM
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echoreply echoreply is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arjuna34 View Post
D = dial command, with T or P as modifiers:

ATDT = dial with touch tone
ATDP = dial with pulse

ATD = dial with default method (varied I think)
Thanks that was my first guess, but I wasn't too sure of it. Looking it up would defeat the theme of the thread. (Un?)fortunately I got rid of all my old modems when I moved offices a few years ago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
The first phones you could buy were push button, but the one I had included a switch you could set for dial pulse or touchtone. The BoCs charged more for touchtone, though since it tied up the network less during dialing it was cheaper. We had dial pulse service, but I found that if I set the phone for touchtone it worked just as well. I think they figured this out about three years after I started it.
That's why we had one touch tone (business) and one pulse line (personal) at home when I was growing up. They charged extra for the touch tone feature. Every year or so they phone company would ask my Dad to upgrade, and he'd refuse because it was more expensive. A year or two ago I asked him how that ever worked out, and he said eventually they just forced it. I know for certainty that in the 80s touch tone did not work on the pulse line, because back then you had to repeatedly dial a BBS when they were busy, and it took much longer to call using pulses. I'd confirmed touch tones didn't work on the pulse line.
  #50  
Old 01-18-2019, 03:47 PM
Folacin Folacin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steronz View Post
Consider how much better it is to dial a number prior to initiating the handset -- you can back up if you make a mistake, you can verify the number is correct before hitting "call." You can store the number in memory. And it's not like this is exclusive to smartphones, cordless phones have been allowing you to dial the number before hitting "call" since the 80s.
I'm old(ish) - if I'm entering digits on my cellphone (as opposed to calling someone in my address book), I still sometimes forget to hit the green call/dial button and wonder why the damn thing isn't ringing. Then I have a momentary moment of embarrassment, press the green button and it works.
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