Lighting up the Phones - what does it mean? I’ll spoiler the answer.
Back in the stone age, multi-line office phones had lights. An active line lit up. Lines on hold blinked. Lighting up the Phones literally means all those lights are flashing. You’re in the weeds and having a busy day at the office. Learning to transfer between those lines (without dropping the person waiting) took some experience.
I’m not sure how to answer that. I honestly had no idea what it meant. I’m 34, I have a cell phone, but I’ve had landlines as well (both tone and pulse/rotary) I thought that’s what you were getting at.
The only time I’ve heard that phrase (or ‘the phones are lit up’ or ‘the board is lit up’ or some other variation) is on the radio. So I did know what you meant, I guess I’d just never heard that specific varition of the phrase and misunderstood it since I thought you were talking about something obsolete.
I don’t think it has anything to do with the ‘current generation’ as offices still use miltiline phones. My work’s phone has 4 lines but can handle something like 20 or 40 and if all 4 are going there’s 8 lights going on it (4 out going lines + 4 extensions off the hook).
Even when everyone has cell phones and no one has landlines, offices will still use PBX systems for (I’ll guess) another 20+ years. Something very major will have to take over for PBX to disappear and Ma Bell is going to fight it every step of the way (since she supplies the dial tone so if it’s internet/intranet based she won’t be happy).
That’s a good point. Our current PBX is a bit different. Only the receptionist has a multi line phone. She transfers calls as needed. We can transfer a call back to her or to someone else (if we know their extension). But, we aren’t aware of how many lines are in use. I try to always transfer calls directly to the correct staff person that can help the caller. I know how frustrating it can be to get bounced back to the receptionist.
It’s been about 15 years since I had a multi line phone with the flashing lights.
Glad that I can still use my favorite expression for a few more years. I use lighting up the phones frequently to mean very busy at the office.
That’s all in how your specific extension is programmed. When I programmed my phone system, I programmed my phone to be able to see which lines are active and which extensions are off the hook, then I did that for the next few, at some point I got bored and stopped programming which phones are off the hook since it didn’t matter to them.
I don’t recall if that’s a user or supervisor setting but if it’s just a user setting you can program it in yourself so it lights up whichever light you want. It’ll also make transferring a call to that person as easy as hitting one of those speedkeys (that probably just sit there and do nothing on your phone). You can probably google your phone model and get a manual for it and do it yourself. What you really need is the manual for the PBX system, but that’s a start.
I’m 30 and every office, including my current one, has had a multi-line phone that occasionally becomes all lit up.
I’m just one data point but I have to admit I find the question odd. It seems for anyone who has worked in an office, odds are they would have such a phone. Certainly not necessarily, but at least better than even odds.
Having worked in radio, I think of lighting up the phones as when a lot of people are calling in to request songs or play a contest. “Listeners are lighting up the phones to request the latest song by…” for example. I’ve also worked in an office and never heard the term used with regard to office phones. I’m a definitely over 30.
If I think about it, I will ask my 16 yo when he gets home from school if he’s familiar with the phrase. I’m thinking that since cell phones tend to light up when someone calls, he may be able to deduce the meaning from context even if he’s never heard it before. He’s pretty smart like that.
You must be a youngster, Aceplace or you’d know the original phrase is “Light up the switchboard”. Long before phones had multiple lights and lines, it was the operator’s switchboard that lit up when lots of incoming calls occurred.