Rotary dials generate DP dialing codes rather than DTMF. AT&T in the U.S.A. switched many years ago, with the result that rotary dial telephones are practically extinct there. However, the switch in Europe came at a much later date, with the result that many of these telephones are still in use.

In Israel, with the completion of the switch to digital switches (no pun intended), Bezeq announced that all rotary dial telephones are obsolete; this happened around 1997. However, you may still find these phones in some places, and DP is supported on all lines.

Rotary dial phones are great. I'm personally looking for an original Western Electric Model 500 desk set. This was the most common rotary phone through the 60's and 70's. The best thing about it was the ringer, it was a true bell, not an electronic thingie.

Dialing a rotary phone may be slow, but the whole mechanical aspect of it makes it somewhat cool in today's digital world. If you don't remember how to dial a rotary phone, here's how:

Let's outline this step-by-step:

  • 1. Pick up the handset.
  • 2. Look at the first digit.
  • 3. Stick your finger into the hole with the digit printed inside it.
  • 4. Turn the dial clockwise with that hole until your finger encounters the metal stop.
  • 5. Pull finger out of the hole. Wait until the dial returns to its home position.
  • 6. Look at the next digit. If there is a next digit, go to step 3. Otherwise, you are done dialing.
Listen to the wonderful clicks and pops of the step-by-step and/or Crossbar switches connecting your call. Try to figure out what kind of system you are on by listening to those noises, including the distinctive style of the ringing tone.

Wake up and realize you're not living in the 60's anymore. Hang up and dial again by pressing the buttons like you're supposed to.

A rotary telephone actually works by "listening" to the number of clicks the dial makes as it goes back around to the original position. For example, a single click would signify the number one, two clicks the number two, and so on ending at ten clicks for a zero. Thus, if there were some other method of making the clicks, the phone could be dialed in an alternate way.

Granted, this is not the most efficient way to dial a telephone number (not to mention very inaccurate), but entertaining to attempt to do when bored. Pressing the disconnecting switch in rapid succession has the same effect as turning the dial to the desired number. Any numbers between one and five are relatively easy to dial. They are short enough to keep track of how many times the plunger has been pressed, whereas a number like eight can leave you wondering exactly how many times the plunger has been pressed, and whether or not it has been pressed fast enough. A pause of too great a time length can result in the phone thinking you dialed a "6" and a "2" when you really meant to dial "8".

This can be done with almost any telephone, not just a rotary, just as long as it has a switch that can be change from tone to pulse. Be sure that it is switched to pulse mode and that’s all there is to it. I recommend starting out calling people with telephone numbers with small digits.

Note: My math teacher was the one who introduced me, as well as my entire class, to this idea. While he was in college, his roommate threw their phone against the wall, thereby breaking the "9" key. Any time they wanted to call someone with a nine in their phone number, they were forced to use the above mentioned process. He gave us a little demonstration in class that proved he was quite proficient at this task.

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