"Snoring" telephone ring signal in old media programs

Participating in this thread on old-fashioned alphanumeric phone numbers I was reminded of something else I’ve always wondered about–the peculiar sounds you hear when characters in old movies and radio dramas use the telephone. I’m old enough to have used rotary dial phones so I do understand the sounds resulting from that process. But when the dialing is completed, instead of the vaguely bell-like ringing tone at the other end of the line, which I’ve heard more or less all my life, it’s a percussive and almost completely atonal noise rather like the snoring of a small animal. Instead of

in the older shows we hear:

I’ve never heard this sound myself IRL, but as late as the 1960s, if there was a telephone scene in one of my mother’s soap operas when I happened into the den, it would have that snore-y sound.

Anybody know what was up with that? Did the ringing signal ever sound like that IRL? And if so, how was it generated, and when did it change?

Is it this one? It’s a real old-timey automatic switch ring. If not you can spend hours listening to those videos of old switch tones. There was quite a variety before everything got standardized in the 5ESS era.

Does it match to anything here ?

Perhaps 21.

Perhaps the studio didn’t like to use bells (which have the higher and pure frequency) as it would spread all through the studio…

No, that’s not it. I’m talking about the ring signal heard by the calling party.

ETA: Forgot to address this. I’m sure the studios didn’t have a problem with the ringing sound of the receiving phone. For just one example, in The Adventures of Sam Spade every episode started with the ringing of Spade’s office telephone, which would then be answered by his secretary Effie (Sweetheart) Perrine. One or two other programs were similar.

It might be one of these but I haven’t had time to listen to all of them. Still, it’s interesting indeed that people have put videos like this up, and it gives me a starting point for further searches.

There is a ring at 7:09 here that sounds like a snore, “old crossbar 5 ring” :
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8JUvJnvcpY&feature=youtu.be&t=7m9s](http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/old crossbar 5 ring)

That and the ones that follow are damn close, but even these are more tonal, like a musical note, than the sound I’m talking about. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s generally the same thing, though.

It turns out that these historical ringback tones (RBTs) are damned hard to research because in today’s mobile market RBT’s are a popular way of accessorizing your phone (i.e., you can customize the ring signal heard by people when they dial your phone). It’s about like trying to research classical pre-Christian religion by googling “paganism”.

Url is messed up… It goes back to The Dope, according to the mouseover.

Url is messed up… It goes back to The Dope, according to the mouseover.

Update: I was able to quote, copy and paste the Youtube handle into Google.

Fixed link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?=F8JUvJnvcpY&feature=youtu.be&t=7m9s

Old (electromechanical) central offices had a “tone plant” that generated all of the necessary audio tones (dial tone, ring, busy, “howler”, etc.) While there were a number of standard models, they tended to drift out of adjustment over the years, and often started making unusual sounds. As long as all the sounds were produced and distinctive, there was no reason to repair the equipment.

Where I grew up, the exchange that served my house (see the earlier 5-digit dialing thread) generated a rather odd set of tones.

Dial tone was a “bwwwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh” sound.

Ringback was “Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap! … Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap!”.

But busy was the weirdest - it was “bneeeeooooowitt … bneeeeooooowitt … bneeeeooooowitt”.

Anyway, the snore sound for ringback (if I understand you correctly) was a common version.

Once central offices went fully digital (which for the Bells was the 5ESS, as the older 1ESS / 1AESS were computer-controlled electromechanical switches), perfect tones could be generated all the time, and individual lines could be configured for different sets of tones (this wasn’t normally marketed, but was available - see “5ESS Business and Residence Modular Features” for details).